I know that my selfish desires won’t let me do anything that is good. Even when I want to do right, I cannot. Instead of doing what I know is right, I do wrong. And so, if I don’t do what I know is right, I am no longer the one doing these evil things. The sin that lives in me is what does them. The Law has shown me that something in me keeps me from doing what I know is right. With my whole heart I agree with the Law of God. But in every part of me I discover something fighting against my mind, and it makes me a prisoner of sin that controls everything I do. What a miserable person I am. Who will rescue me from this body that is doomed to die? Thank God! Jesus Christ will rescue me. – Rom. 7:18-25a
Meet Jersey. She’s the funniest dog I’ve ever met. We had a shaky start a year and a half ago. When we got her, we thought she was a super cute puppy…right up to the part where we were 5 minutes down the road. You see, Jersey gets carsick. I’m not talking about regular carsickness; I’m talking something out of Poltergeist carsickness, the kind where people scream and think it might be better to jump out of a moving vehicle because, “OH MY WOW, WHAT IS THAT?”
There are other issues – she definitely has ADHD, and she thinks that anything that can fit in her mouth is something to eat – rocks, wood, dog toys, her bed, it doesn’t matter. It’s possible that she can be found in the genealogical record of a dog named Marley. Also, the way she randomly leaps as she runs leads us to believe she might think she’s a gazelle.
What Jersey lacks in common sense, she makes up for in personality. To get our attention, she likes to mash her lips (if dogs have those) up against the glass door, showing her teeth and gums (see picture). It’s just like when a kid mashes his mouth against the window of your car. Even though you’re annoyed because now you have to clean that window, it’s a little bit funny. Jersey also, every day, stands with her chin dropped and resting on the windowsill outside the kitchen when she knows we’re passing by. If we’ve been gone, she uses her signature sill move the second we walk back in the house. It’s an obvious ploy to appear pitiful, lonely, and precious all at the same time. And she works it (see picture). Jersey aims to please. Sometimes she catches bunny rabbits and proudly brings them to the back porch for me. Iffen we lived in them Arkansas hills, I’d probly whoop n holler about that, because, hey, vittles. We don’t. I’m a city girl. I can’t look at that poor mangled bunny, and I definitely don’t want to hear it make that squeaky toy noise.
But as much as Jersey wants to please me, she also wants to do her own thing. And by “own thing,” I mean dig her way out of the back yard every single day. I talked about this once before, in Goin’ on a Bear Hunt…It’s such a problem that, if she’s outside by herself, she has to be kept on a tether. Otherwise, she’s in a neighboring yard in approximately 3.1 nanoseconds.
I think Jersey wants to do the right thing. I’ve watched her when she doesn’t know it. She starts heading toward the fence, and then stops and looks back toward the house to see if anyone is watching. If she doesn’t see anyone, she keeps going for about 10 more feet, then repeats the process. This stopping and looking routine lets me know the escape is premeditated. It’s also guilt-ridden. If, at some point during this process I step outside onto the back porch, she turns from her wayward path and heads straight for me in a dead sprint.
I don’t want to take too many liberties by comparing us to my dog, but I bet you already see the relationship between my Jersey tale and Romans 7. Even after we’ve been bought by the blood of Christ, our sin nature causes problems. We say we love God and want to obey His commands, and we mean it. Still, we find ourselves doing what we hate. We head for the fence, so to speak, well aware that we are choosing our own way instead of His.
Some struggle with Paul’s words here, finding it difficult to accept that once we are saved, our sin nature remains an active force. I find it more difficult to accept that I might not be so closely connected to Christ that I wouldn’t recognize sin’s pull, that I might keep doing my own thing, instead of turning and running straight to Him. Paul was frustrated by his sin nature, because he wanted to honor Christ more than anything. But he was not whining in self-pity or hopelessness. No, the struggle in him was a reminder to him of the power of Christ over him. What did he do? When his sin nature caused conflict, he made a beeline for Jesus. Will you?