by Joanie Butman
My last official act as a sports mom was to orchestrate the end-of-year lacrosse party. Since teenage boys consider Chipotle its own food group, the moms decided to cater dinner rather than the traditional barbecue. I was in charge of ordering, which seemed an easy enough task and something at which I happen to excel. I placed my order online in a matter of minutes and cursed myself for not thinking of this idea years ago. However, when I arrived at the designated pickup time I was told my order was never received, despite the fact that I was holding the confirmation in my hand. Chipotle has now been added to the list of establishments I can no longer frequent.
Let’s just say I didn’t receive the news well. When I called a friend to vent, she asked, “Please don’t tell me you went all Brooklyn on them?” I’m not exactly sure what that looks like, but apparently it’s not pretty. Regardless, I was pleasantly surprised to discover that speed is one of Chipotle’s best attributes (another thing that appeals to hungry teenage boys). They had dinner for 30 packed and in my car in less than half an hour.
As Christians our most basic responsibility is to live in a way that attracts people to Christ. My friend distills that goal down even further to her first rule of thumb in her Christian walk which mirrors the Hippocratic Oath, “First and foremost, do no harm.” I’m fairly certain that going ‘all Brooklyn’ on people fails miserably in that regard. Hence, the long preamble about Chipotle.
Christians are called to be Christ-like but too often fall short and are then tempted to feel discouraged and defeated by our inability to overcome our sinful nature, despite our best efforts and intentions – and with good reason. That’s why the gospel is called The Good News. God knows we can’t do it on our own. We’re the only ones that find that surprising. Trust me, until you accept that fact, you can’t truly appreciate what’s so amazing about grace. It is only when we recognize our own capacity for sin that our heart opens and God’s transforming love seeps in, resetting our default mode from one controlled by self to one controlled by the Spirit. This is not a one-time event. We are constantly faced with moment-to-moment choices of whether to give into our sinful nature or rely on the Holy Spirit’s power to overcome it.
Even so, every backslide offers another opportunity to humbly repent, lean on God’s promises and the Holy Spirit to ignite a renewed commitment to rely on His strength and wisdom to make a better choice next time. We’re all a work in progress and recidivists by nature. Remember, it’s about perseverance not perfection. It’s a lo-o-ong race.
Do we give up and wallow in self-criticism, condemnation and despair, or do we seek forgiveness from the only One who has the power to transform lives? Even the apostle Paul struggled with this issue as is illustrated by his lament: “I have the desire to do what is good, but I cannot carry it out. 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.” (Romans 7:18-19) Don’t you just love his honesty? Like Paul, it’s usually the same sins that trip me up all the time, but I take comfort in God’s answer to Paul’s pleas for deliverance, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” (2 Corinthians 12:9)
How do you tap into that power? Spend time with Jesus. The more you get to know Him, the more you rely on His power and not your own. When you're in unity with Christ, your sinful nature is continually and repeatedly handed over to Him rather than acted upon.
So what’s my solution in regard to my conduct in Chipotle? To humbly return to the scene of the crime with an apology and a peace offering, much like the orchid I brought the woman in Staples who worked on the posters for the lacrosse team, the cookie I brought the guard in the parking lot in town who insisted I move my car, the pie I brought the lady in the pharmacy who lost my prescription, the truckload of doughnuts I should have bought for everyone I ever dealt with at the Motor Vehicle Bureau or on the Apple help line – you get the picture. I may not have perfected the art of choosing patience or self-control, but choosing to seek forgiveness is something with which I’ve had a lot of practice.
“Live each day controlled and guided by the Holy Spirit.
Then the words of Christ will be in your mind,
the love of Christ will be behind your actions,
and the power of Christ will help you control your selfish desires.”