Sin, guilt and mutts


For the last few months, my husband and I have been preparing to move out of our quaint, little two-story home. It really is a lovely home. In the process, I have been sorting through piles of papers and clutter, and came across something I wrote a few years ago. Along with creating things, in my spare time I love to write. As I have named this blog “All things new” I thought this might be appropriate to share, even though it is not a project, because through Christ we are a new creation. So, here it is for my few readers (thanks Mom!) so I hope you enjoy it!:

I tiptoed up the stairs, trying to tread stealthily and silently. I had previously tested each step, memorizing which ones creaked the most upon my ascent. I had mapped them out as precisely as if I was planning a treacherous mission to scale the Andes. I carefully avoided the third step from the top. I was nearly to my final destination, the upstairs hallway. The triumphant and slightly smug expression on my face would have made onlookers believe I had just climbed Mt. Everest with a camel on my back rather than the staircase of our two-story home. But, never-the-less, I was still inwardly gloating that my two adopted daughters, 14 and 15 months old, were still sleeping soundly at the end of the same hallway. I had crept up our creaky old stairs as silently as a mouse, even at the risk of tumbling backwards down them. As I turned the doorknob slowly and carefully to our bedroom door (the very same door I had recently oiled so it wouldn’t whine as it swung open on its hinges) I heard the clamor on the steps behind me. In the stillness of a previously peaceful home, the commotion sounded like a herd of Clydesdales running up the steps. I groaned as Henry, our Labrador mix, poked his black head and piercing blue eyes around the corner. I know that dogs can’t smile, but I swear he had a smug grin of his own on his face. I wanted to scream, but I held my breath as I listened for sign of life from the next door down. I heard a half-hearted whimper, but breathed a sigh of relief when there was only silence again. I gave Henry my sternest look, but he only stared back at me with a playful look. 

“You’re luck you’re cute,” I whispered through clenched teeth, trying to sound firm.  I melted at his pleading eyes and patted his head in defeat.  I opened the door to my bedroom to retrieve what I had come upstairs for. As I searched my room, I heard a rustling coming from the bathroom. I groaned again. I knew that sound. Henry was digging through the trash. 

As I entered the bathroom, Henry looked up at me, a dirty Kleenex hanging out of his mouth, garbage strewn all around his paws.

“Henry!” I seethed in a whisper. He stared back at me again blankly while absently chewing on the tissue. I grabbed what was left of it out of his mouth and picked up the rest of the debris lying around.

“Come on!” I snapped my fingers for affect, still whispering, herding him into the bedroom where I could keep an eye on him. Looking quite unrumpled by the scolding, he trotted dutifully ahead of me.  

I scanned the room. Where were my drawing pencils? I searched in all of the usual places, in some unusual ones as well. That’s when I heard it: a snap, a crunch, a pop.

I turned slowly, not really wanting to know what I would see. Henry looked up at me with those innocent blue eyes with a wooden stick wedged under his jowls.  I no longer had to search for my pencils; Henry had found them.

“Henry,” I shout, this time no longer whispering.  I reached to pluck the remains of my precious instruments out of his mouth just in time to hear the wailing from the room next door….

In Romans chapter seven, Paul talks about his frustration with wanting to do what is right, but when he tries to, sin is right there beside him.  Though you should never triumph in someone else’s sin, I admit this passage always gives me comfort.  Paul, a man of God, and  not just any man- the one who has probably suffered more than any other Christian for the sake of the gospel in the history of the world, struggles with sin? Is that possible?

I am a woman of guilt. If you asked me my greatest motivation in life, that might just be it. I wallow, I drown, I bathe myself in the guilts of past sins, present sins, and sins yet to come every day. As Paul has said in verses 18-19 “I had the desire to do what is good, but I cannot carry it out. For what I do is not the good I want to do; no the evil I do not want to do-this I keep on doing.”  Wait a minute-Paul? Who knew we had something in common? 

I read these words, filled with both hope that I was not alone in my sinfulness and disappointment that if even Paul could not attain perfection, what hope is there for me? But another part of this passage caught my eye and heart as well: “I do not understand what I do. For what I want to do, I do not do, but what I hate to do…As it is, it is no longer myself who do it, but it is the sin living in me.” (v15, 17) 

As I looked at the mischievous, diabolical, destructive, yet somehow loveable dog sitting before me, it gave me a visual picture of this principle. When my children were sleeping soundly, the only reprieve during our exhaustingly busy days, when I had the chance to do anything besides change poopy diapers, wipe runny noses, referee tug-of-wars, and spoon-feed demanding toddlers, Henry was always right there beside me to mess everything up. The important principle is this: we are two separate beings.  There is myself, eager for peace and silence-and there is Henry, seemingly determined to wreak havoc and thoroughly destroy any hopes for peace.  As children of God, we are separate from the sin nature living in us.  We are responsible for our sin, but under grace, we are free from them.  They no longer define us as people.  Guilt has no place in our lives as Christians.  He “casts our sin as far as the east is from the west” and He “remembers them no more” and wants us to do the same.  When we wallow in our guilt and shame, we became useless to God because we are constantly focuses inwardly rather than outwardly, focusing on God and others.