twentybydesign

the life and times of a twenty year old designer

teach my song to rise to you

with 3 comments

I write best what I most need to hear. This posting does not come from a place of confidence and authority, but from a place of humility in constantly receiving the grace to keep fighting.

The chronology of Jesus’ life story often deserves more attention than we give it. Because before the resurrection. Before the last supper. Before the feeding of five thousand. Jesus was tempted. 40 days in the wilderness. 40 days where all of the first-class demons assaulted every desire, longing, inclination towards brokenness, fear, and potential for weakness that comprised his fully-human nature. And yet, despite this vicious assault, he lived a life that was perfect. Spotless. Free from any sin. His knowledge of scripture and his identity as the beloved son of his Father gave him the power to fight off sin, but it’s impossible to imagine that this made the fight easy.
He was offered bread after fasting 40 days. He was offered a miracle which would have erased the need for subtlety in claiming his identity. And he was offered power as a man over all the kingdoms of the earth, which would have seemed easier than the work he was about to begin in building a new kingdom. When I was younger, I looked at this story and said “Well, of course he ‘did the right thing and said no’ because he’s Jesus. God. That wouldn’t have been hard at all.” My understanding of Jesus’ divinity was well-founded. Problem was, I was missing his humanity. And for a man to face such temptation. That would have been ages beyond hard.

So here’s the thing. Guys, this probably shouldn’t have been as revolutionary to me as it has been. But hang with me for a second, because the most foundational truths are often the simplest.

Temptation isn’t inherently wrong. It isn’t our fault, not in the way that temptation itself should bring us guilt. Our God does not define us in terms of our weakness, but in terms of His strength.

Whoa. What. No. No. Because we’re supposed to not ever want to make that cutting remark, eat that fifth slice of pizza, navigate the darkest corners of the internet, fudge the numbers on that tax report, hold on too tight, let go too soon, cut someone off in traffic, ignore a cry for help, or even be unkind to ourselves. Right? But we do. Oh, how often we do.

Looking at the world with longing , desire, misdirected hopes, weakly formed identities, we are tempted by every thing that promises to satisfy the ache. And how do we support each other in this? Well, we’ve created some sort of culture where we can’t even talk about the fact that we want those things (and many, many more) – so how will we ever be able to confess when we give in to temptation?

The temptation I face so often feels as though I should surrender to it. And surrendering would mean exactly that. Giving up the fight. Looking the darkness in the face and saying “Alright, you win. I’ll do things your way.” And at times that seems so simple.

But I have not chosen to surrender. I have chosen to fight. Fighting means approaching the battle knowing full well the strengths of your enemy, but also knowing the glorious power of the One who is on your side.

Dear friends, temptation does not define you. The strength of the temptation you may be facing does not invalidate you as a person, as I have so long been convinced. C.S. Lewis’ comments on the subject are particularly apt.

“A silly idea is current that good people do not know what temptation means. This is an obvious lie. Only those who try to resist temptation know how strong it is…A man who gives in to temptation after five minutes simply does not know what it would have been like an hour later. That is why bad people, in one sense, know very little about badness. They have lived a sheltered life by always giving in.”

Mmmmhmm. I’ve been spending a lot of time by myself this week. Reading a lot. Researching a lot. It’s what I tend to do when there are things in my life that don’t make sense to me. And here’s the deal. Reading and researching can take you a fair ways. I can think of countless times where the words of others, packaged and processed, have lent clarity to a troubled or clouded state of mind.

But there’s a downside to reading a whole book at once. The process which took the author months or years or decades to evolve through, you can devour in a couple of hours. And after the book is finished, you will feel as though you will never be able to grow as they have, to learn as they have, to love as they have.

Because you can’t force a lifetime’s worth of growth into a weekend. You just. Simply. Can’t.

So sometimes, before you can answer the question, you have to live the question. Before you can fight the temptation, you have to feel it. Yeah. Feelings. Feelings aren’t wrong. They’re human. Let it get all up inside of you and claw at your heart and try desperately to  build a foothold, to force action, to remake you in its own image. Wrestle it – a form of fighting that disallows the impersonal distance of a firearm; grab it by the arms and pin it down and look it in the eye. Get to know your temptation.

And then. Fight. Back.

Not because you are strong. Not because you are capable. And most definitely not so that you can adhere to a prescribed timeline, measuring healing or standards of success. Fight instead because the one who has conquered the world’s greatest temptations is on your side, fighting for you and fighting with you. Fight on the assumption that whether you choose to fight just might be more important than whether you are able to win. Fight because temptation, when confronted, will cease to define you and will instead become part of the furnace that shapes you.

The book of James says it best:

” Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance.  Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.”

So to all facing temptation. To each and every broken, lost, hurting, and guilty soul out there. Persevere. Hold fast. Wrestle. Join hands with the One who knows your heart. And together we will fight, not because we know the night to be so very dark, but because we have already seen the dawn and believe in the promise of a glorious sunrise.

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Written by Taylor Webster

June 2, 2013 at 9:17 pm

3 Responses

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  1. “… we are tempted by every thing that promises to satisfy the ache.” Amen. And so we must persevere in letting Jesus satisfy.

    Michael Snow

    June 2, 2013 at 11:10 pm

  2. Glad you are back on the observation trail. Pop always said that experience was a great teacher. One caveat to your postulate would be that at times our common sense will override the need to experience temptation so we can overcome it. If i know that heroin is bad for me, there is no need to be tempted to find out if it is really bad. I believe at that point, God expects us to use the free will He has gifted us with to avoid temptation. We can not always avoid temptation as Scripture notes, but God does give us the way out. When Billy Graham was in his heyday he spoke of being on the road and being tempted by women. he said he stayed pure by running away, literally! That is how he was delivered from temptation, nothing complicated or theological, he simply had to run in another direction to get away from the issue. Sometimes i think we over think the solution that God always provides us with, the ability to say no and go the other way. Some people say that life is not that simple, but i believe that sometimes it is. bottom line is God allows people to do what they want to do, temptation is an excellent illustration of that reality.

    Our choices ultimately define who we are through all our temptations. 🙂

    deedoh

    June 3, 2013 at 3:53 am

  3. Thank you Taylor. So often we don’t like to look at temptation in the eyes, and well-meaning people have supported ignorance and the act of ignoring this issue. Thank you for sharing your thoughts, this meant a lot to me.

    Royal Langer

    June 20, 2013 at 2:29 pm


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