If I Had Two Hands

Yesterday, while making a sandwich, I saw the evidence of Paul’s Romans 7 struggle worked out in me physically. I had spread one side of my sandwich-mini with Mayo (Yes, full on Mayonnaise, so sue me!), but it seems that there was an internal debate sprouting. My flesh apparently thought that I had been a bit skimpy with the spread, while the Spirit within believed that, although all things are permissible, one swipe of the white wonder was plenty. I watched with detached objectivity as the conflict worked itself out bodily. My right hand, which was holding the knife, reached toward the opening of the jar while my left hand simultaneously clamped on the lid. I was only a witness to the event, somewhat indignant, and skeptical that my sandwich had all that was needed to truly be complete.

This example is just the icing on the cake, er…the mayo on the bread, if you will. I’ve been reading Oswald Chambers’ Biblical Ethics; the Moral Foundations of Life; the Philosophy of Sin (a little light reading for my down time). Oswald’s days were far too short in my opinion, because they didn’t extend to overlap mine! Thank you Lord for Biddy!! I digress. In the section titled, “Rights – What One Has a Just Claim To” Chambers says that, “the counterfeit of freedom is independence”. I wrote about this in a much earlier post (see Off the Leash) without Chambers’ elegance or succinctness, but making the same point. A point I need to hear again every day.

Here’s the argument. I have the right to spread more mayo on my bread. Liberty allows it. But it is my liberty also to defer to God’s rule of morality, which forbids excess. Greed, selfishness, rebellion, gluttony, self-indulgence, wantonness, lack of self-control, these are not exercises in liberty but lawlessness. This is a demand for independence from God’s rule. Unfortunately, though I desire to be obedient to God, I find the principle at work that I am not. I am in a constant struggle for my independence. One hand is serving self. One hand is serving God. If only I had two hands doing the same thing!*

Oswald instructs, “The only liberty a saint has is the liberty not to use his liberty.” And this, he says, is the choice of the believer. This is conscious submission to the rule of true freedom – the freedom to fulfill the law of God. If this is an exercise in deep thinking for you, as it is for me, return with me to the mayo jar. I should not be a helpless bystander to my body’s imperative and conflict, but rather am duty-bound to become an active guiding participant. (The tail does not wag the dog!) The head should rule the hands, directing one hand in screwing the lid on tight, while the other is surrendering the knife. All to the glory of our Lord, who knows what’s best. (Though I don’t think He ever tasted Hellman’s Real Mayonnaise.)

I joke, but this is serious business. This is a severe and on-going personal struggle for me, if you’ll indulge a bit of straight-faced honesty for a moment.  I grew up in a home where no one (No. One.) was to be trusted, and survival came by my own wits and self-protection. I stunk at it, to be sure, but I knew there was only one person I could count on…me. And that meant becoming my own rule and law, and forging a hard-fought battle for independence from the rules designed to indulge the selfish whims of the adults in whose care I found myself. To say that I have trust issues would not even begin to suffice. Trust the people who are supposed to be in charge? Forget about it. Especially them. They are not to be trusted. Rules? Rules are made by those same egocentric tyrants who want to control and contain and disguise the truth. If I know what’s good for me… rules are not to be followed, unless they’re my rules. This is how I survived, and this has become the daily struggle of my life. It plays out in moments when I’m making a sandwich. Lay down the knife, or go in for another scoop? Who says I can’t?! Well…let me just show you that I can! And I will! So there… what are you gonna do about it?! (Said while defiantly licking first one side of the knife and then the other…with a flourish!)

God’s grace is both tender and merciful, y’all. If you didn’t already know that then let me be the living proof! He is long-suffering as we work out our salvation. For some of us the road is long. Lo-o-ong. But His mercies are new every morning. And every day we get the chance to fight (and win) the battle raging within us. We have the liberty to live in the freedom of the law of God, or the liberty to remain in rebellion. One is love and life. The other…well…is not (trust me).

Let me just finish up by saying that while I fully understand that my peace comes not in winning the struggle for my independence, but in ceasing to struggle, I struggle nonetheless. And thanks be to God for Jesus Christ (Romans Chapter 8!) who will deliver me from this body of sin, for now there is no condemnation for me (or you). Even while I figure out how to get two hands doing the same thing…lifted high.  

*”Two Hands” by Jars of Clay
I've been living out of sanity
I've been splitting hairs and blurring lines
I am a house that is divided
In my heart and in my mind

I use one hand to pull you closer
The other to push you away
If I had two hands doing the same thing
Lifted high, lifted high

I have a broken disposition
I'm a liar who thirsts for the truth
And while I ache for faith to hold me
I need to feel the scars and see the proof

And if we just keep digging we can reach the foundation
Of our souls
And if we just keep cutting all the chains from our hearts
We'll lose control

And it feels like giving in
It feels like starting over
It feels like waking up, and you know it's coming
It feels like a brand new day
Open your eyes

If I had two hands doing the same thing
Lifted high, lifted high
If I had two hands doing the same thing
Lifted high, lifted high
Lifted high, lifted high