I had a friend in elementary school named Jill who was allergic to chocolate. I knew she tried to avoid it, but I didn’t know exactly why or what would happen if she ate it. That is until we were in the same homeroom in the 3rd grade…
Without any warning or explanation, Jill jumped up from her desk and ran out of the room. She just bolted like a flash of light. My teacher instructed me to go after Jill and see what was wrong. Now, had this been any other teacher, I would’ve asked where I should look for my friend. I would’ve requested more guidance as to how I should best care for Jill, but this was Mrs. Yells-A-Lot. She was mad all the time and not so very fun. I was a ball of anxiety for all of 3rd grade, because this teacher was as predictable as a tornado. You could see her coming across the horizon, but you didn’t know which way the funnel would swerve, toward you and your paper without a name at the top of the page or toward your neighbor who had forgotten to clean up his crayons. (Crayon Kid was probably Kevin, a boy who was a bit disheveled and indifferent to learning and always in her path of angry destruction. To make matters worse, when the teacher would holler, “Kevin!” it would inexplicably sound like she was saying my name and I would answer. Then she would yell, “Is your name Kevin?!” I was so anxious I would say, “I don’t know!” and start gnawing on my Smurf erasers. Yeah, I was a stressed out 8-year old.)
Back to Jill…I also ran out of the classroom to search for my friend. Using the detective skills I had learned from The Bloodhound Gang, I determined which way to look for her: to the right which would lead toward an outside door and eventually the nurse’s office or to the left toward the bathrooms? I found the clue I needed when I saw a trail of blood on the linoleum floor to the left. I followed the little red drops to the girls’ restroom. (The restroom which, according to school lore, was home to the Bell Witch, a ghost who could be summoned if you said, “I hate the Bell Witch” three times while staring at the mirror. Then she would savagely claw your face with her razor-sharp fingernails. Childhood is such a magical time.) When I threw open the restroom door, I saw Jill standing at the sink, her blue and white romper with the smocked pictures of hot air balloons across her chest now covered in blood. She turned to look at me, blood dripping from her chin, and I scanned the room for any sign that the Bell Witch still remained, but Jill just squeaked out, “I ate chocolate! I know I shouldn’t do it, but I did it!” And then she broke down and sobbed.
Just like Jill eating chocolate even though she knew it would cause her to have a severe nosebleed, most of us do the opposite of what we know we should do. In this way, we’re all too often our own worst enemy. The Apostle Paul knew this. In the Book of Romans, Paul says, “I don’t understand myself at all, for I really want to do what is right, but I can’t. I do what I don’t want to—what I hate. I know perfectly well that what I am doing is wrong, and my bad conscience proves that I agree with these laws I am breaking…I know I am rotten through and through so far as my old sinful nature is concerned. No matter which way I turn I can’t make myself do right. I want to, but I can’t. When I want to do good, I don’t; and when I try not to do wrong, I do it anyway.” (Living Bible)
But thankfully that’s not the end of it. “So there is now no condemnation awaiting those who belong to Christ Jesus. For the power of the life-giving Spirit—and this power is mine through Christ Jesus—has freed me from the vicious circle of sin and death.”
Praise the Lord that we aren’t stuck slouching over that nasty sink in a haunted bathroom with the temptations and anxieties of the world keeping us on a never-ending loop of our own foolishness. There’s a better way and a heavenly prize waiting for us. “For all creation is waiting patiently and hopefully for that future day when God will resurrect his children. For on that day thorns and thistles, sin, death, and decay—the things that overcame the world against its will at God’s command—will all disappear, and the world around us will share in the glorious freedom from sin which God’s children enjoy.”