For I do not do the good I want... Romans 7:19a
Seems that lately at our house, we've been having a lot of conversations about intentions, and about the disconnect between thoughts and actions.
"I was going to..."
"Well, what I meant to do was..."
And, jumbled up among these conversations, I've been mentally wrestling with the idea of integrity. Wholeness. Or, as Dr. Pennington called it at the 2012 Reformation Conference, shalom-ness. Consistency of person - this is what I think, this is what I believe, and this is what I do, and each is consistent with the other. Being the same person - in thought and in deed, inside and out - regardless of circumstances, peers, etc.
Sadly, I find that I lack this kind of personal integrity. I'm like someone who talks fiscal conservatism at the office, but who operates in the day-to-day without a budget. The ideal sounds good, but, practically speaking, it's not really who I am.
Yes, I say I believe that I should "hold every thought captive" to the Word of God, and that I should think on and practice whatever is true, honorable, just, pure, lovely, commendable, and excellent - but often, I find myself boobed out in front of the most offensive trash on the television. Or, I pray that God will grow me in holiness and conform me more and more to Christ - but then I resist Him at every juncture, stubbornly pursuing my own selfish purposes.
This great personal inconsistency between what I think I value and what my actions reveal about my true desires - this grieves me terribly. My actions betray me! They testify against me! Can I not bring my actions in line with my professed beliefs? If not, can't I at least be honest with myself and with others about what is truly important to me?
My memory is not what it used to be. It's not uncommon for me to fail to shut up the hen house at night - not because I've forgotten, but because I remember having done it last night. "Did I shut up the chickens already?" I ask myself. "Yes," I tell myself, "you were just out there with the flashlight, remember?" Because the thought of shutting up the chicken house is floating around in my head, I think that's as good as having done it.
Same thing for these greater issues. Because I think holiness is a good thing, that's as good as actually actively pursuing holiness, right? I mean, at least my intentions were good. It's not like I was desiring evil, after all. Surely it is better to mentally or verbally affirm what is good and right and lovely, even if I don't do those things, than to not even acknowledge them, right?
Except that, thinking I've closed the hen house - but not actually closing the hen house - leads to dead chickens. And thinking that I love God and desire holiness - but not actually acting on those thoughts - is simply me pronouncing judgment on myself.
A friend once explained it this way: "My want-er is broken." I want to honor God, really and truly I do - but right now, at this moment, I want even more to watch this movie, eat this cake, not eat this cake,spread this gossip, fill-in-the-blank. Who can deliver me from this battle between what I say I believe and my contrary actions?
I am so thankful for a Savior who has promised that He will finish the good work that He has begun in me. Thankful that He is faithfully breaking down the aberrant "wants," and replacing them more and more with a genuine desire to know and please Him.
Thankful that even while I stand here deceiving myself - telling myself that yes, I truly do believe and love God's Word, while acting in blatant contradiction to His precepts - that He is gently and persistently exposing the lies, opening my eyes to the deceptions I've embraced. Thankful that He is giving me eyes to see the truth and grace to repent, all in the context of a relationship that is so secure and loving that I need never feel afraid.
Thankful that in Christ, God is bringing all of my person into conformity with His perfect holiness and integrity. That in Glory, my want-er will be fixed, my practice will be fully consistent with my faith, my good intentions will have given way to actual goodness, and I will experience true, unpolluted, and lasting shalom at last!