I found that I could identify with the Apostle Paul quite often this past week. I know what I wanted to do. I know the right thing to do. And yet....I do exactly what I don't want to do...allow those thoughts space in my head or voice from my mouth. In his letter to the Romans, Paul writes:
15 I do not understand what I do. For what I want to do I do not do, but what I hate I do. 16 And if I do what I do not want to do, I agree that the law is good. 17 As it is, it is no longer I myself who do it, but it is sin living in me. 18 For I know that good itself does not dwell in me, that is, in my sinful nature. For I have the desire to do what is good, but I cannot carry it out. 19 For I do not do the good I want to do, but the evil I do not want to do—this I keep on doing. 20 Now if I do what I do not want to do, it is no longer I who do it, but it is sin living in me that does it.
I feel his frustration, don't you? After all, the law tells us what is right, what is good, what is wrong, what is bad. And once we know the law, once we know what God expects of us...we know what is sin. And we have to come face to face with the fact that sin is living in us...and that when we allow it to have control, we do the things we know we should not, the things we do not want to do.
So, I'm standing in the checkout line at the store. First, I grumble in my head about how long all the lines are...how slow they seem to be moving...how much my feet hurt...how the person in front of me must have about 9 billion items...and oh my goodness, how much longer can it possibly take? I heave a big sigh, thinking surely no one is as tortured as I. Then I hear that quiet voice...."Take. Every. Thought. Captive." And suddenly, I realize that I am giving rental space in my head to whiny, impatient thoughts. As I direct ungracious thoughts toward the checker, who in my opinion, is not moving fast enough...I realize that it's time to discipline my thoughts.
I think instead of how thankful I am that I have the funds to grocery shop. I think that though I am tired and my feet ache as I stand in line, I have a job that allows me to do more than stand in one place for hours on end. I think how maybe the checker could use a smile, a kind word, a little light-hearted chatter...rather than a grumpy customer with a short temper and no patience. I think how I could use my idle waiting time for prayer instead of for complaints. So I take those negative thoughts captive...stop them in their tracks...and turn them into something much more useful, kind, and considerate of others around me.
Easy? Not always, but I will continue to practice. Because I do not want to be like the wicked man in Psalm 10:4 -
4 In his pride the wicked man does not seek him;
in all his thoughts there is no room for God.
No room for God? Let it not be so. Let us not be like the wicked man...instead, let us seek Him, let us give Him all the room in our minds. Let us take every thought captive, and make room for God in every moment, every thought.