In the song, “All My Friends”, by the Counting Crows (off their 3rd album – This Desert Life), Adam Duritz sings words that have haunted me for several years now:
“I’m trying to find me a better way / to get from the things I do to the things I should”
I think this captures perfectly the difficulty of being a broken human in a broken world: We know we’re messed up; it’s getting better that we don’t know how to do.
Unfortunately, we Christians frequently fail to offer the world – or ourselves – the “better way” that Adam Duritz is looking for. In our sermons, in our relationships, and even in our own self-talk, we return again and again to the method espoused by Bob Newhart in the video on my last post: “STOP IT!”
Stop sinning! Stop being so selfish! Stop being so ungrateful! Stop it! Stop being such a jerk! Stop drinking too much! Stop looking at porn! Stop looking at people other than your spouse! Stop being too tired to serve more! Stop being frustrated and angry! While you’re at it, stop being sad, annoyed, scared, upset, or anything other than joyful! What’s wrong with you? STOP IT!
Ok, maybe I’m being harsh. We’re rarely that overtly insensitive, but isn’t this what a lot of our advice amounts to?
Again, Duritz’s words capture my failed efforts:
“You go to sleep dreaming how you would / be a different kind if you thought you could / but you come awake the way you are instead”
If our conversations as Christians are mostly about trying harder, and rarely say anything of the transforming power of Jesus, of the Holy Spirit – of the GOSPEL! – then we are not preaching or living Christianity!
The power of the Holy Spirit inside of us… I think maybe THAT is the “better way” that Adam Duritz is looking for. Christianity isn’t about trying harder to fix ourselves. It is about giving up! It is about letting go of our attempts to get better, because we know they will never succeed. And it is, finally, about the delirious joy that comes when we realize God has promised to win the victory against our sin that we could never win on our own.
I’m not claiming to have Holy Spirit power oozing out of all my pores. I’m not claiming that transformation and freedom from sin are easy for me to come by. But in recent years, I’ve been less and less taken in by the seductive call of the “Try harder” “STOP IT” mentalities. When I hear them spoken by other Christians, I’m less likely to adopt the same attitude myself, and more likely to become self-protective and resistant.
Truth be told, I’m also more likely to judge the person espousing the “STOP IT” mentality, which is not ideal. But I do think it’s a step up from taking “STOP IT” as the gospel, when in fact it is its polar opposite.
Jesus has given us a better way.
p.s., here’s the Counting Crows song for those of you who’d like to hear it: