Listening is a choice.
I was at a meeting last night and a curious thought hit me followed by a wave of guilt, confusion, and frustration pouring over me. If I know what I believe about God is true, then why do I continue to do the things I know that I am not supposed to do? In a moment of climatic exasperation, I wrote, “what is wrong with me?”
Just as suddenly, I remembered the words of the apostle Paul:
I do not understand what I do. For what I want to do I do not do, but what I hate I do…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.
This is the guy who wrote two-thirds of the New Testament. This is the guy who gave his life for the faith. This is the guy who spoke before governors, synagogues, and even Caesar. Yeah, that guy.
Let me be clear…I am no Paul. Glad we cleared that up.
When I first became a follower of Christ, I was 28 years old with a lifetime of anger issues. “Lifetime” is not an exaggeration. I remember my first act of rage when I was four years old. The list of offenses is long, costly, and terrifying now.
At first, I assumed my Christian life would be storybook, full of over-sized, calorie-free candies and stardust-trailed frolics through meadows of clover holding hands with Jesus. I did not think that 28 years of problems would find their way into my new life. And they didn’t…for about a week.
Oh, what a magical week! Shortly after my conversion, I was rude to my business partner. I got home and felt convicted. For the first time in my life, I apologized on my own accord. He was so thankful. His appreciation was intoxicating.
I listened so well to the Holy Spirit…for about a week. I had not yet learned the Christian equivalent of skipping class: rejecting the Holy Spirit.
When I was in high school, I had over a 4.0 GPA. I don’t say that to brag. In our school, you got a 3.5 for showing up and not being arrested. Since I was forced to show up for school every day, I made good grades. The same was true of my first semester of college. The formula for me was simple: go to class, make A’s and B’s.
Then I discovered a most peculiar thing…I wasn’t technically required to attend class. If I wanted to actually pass the class, however, I did need to attend. But no one drove me there or took attendance. My father wouldn’t get a note from the professor if I didn’t show up (I later learned that my coach did, however…and that meant I was probably going to vomit while running sprints).
It was a similar thing when I discovered that I had a choice to listen to the Spirit or not. At first, obedience felt mandatory and unconditional. Life was easier then, during that majestic week of submission to the Spirit.
I can’t say that I have come full circle on this because that would imply that I am back into full obedience mode. I am not. As Paul says later in that chapter, “What a wretched man I am!” But I inch closer every day, I “press on toward the goal to win the prize” God has for me and every day I choose to listen a little more.
Have you ever chosen not to listen? What were the results?