I made a lovely crabmeat quiche last night, if I do say so myself. Never mind that I made quiche Lorraine the night before, and also threw a cold slice of it in my husband’s lunch bag today. I was on a cheese pie kick, OK?
When my husband asked what was for dinner and I told him, he replied, “Hmm. We could have made crepes with Newburg sauce.” The purpose of today’s column is to report to you what happened next. The answer is astounding: nothing.
But on the way to “nothing” a violent tug of war of a few seconds’ duration arose in my heart, an unseen tempest in a teapot. Immediately after the words left my husband’s mouth came the strongest tendency to default to the well-worn rut of past reactions to such perceived moral injustices: the Silent Treatment.
For those of you who cannot relate to a temptation to withhold affection from one’s mate because of a comment about crepes and Newburg sauce, I would ask you to ponder our idiosyncratic Achilles’ heels. I, for example, have no draw to drink or gambling, and can drive past the opulent houses in the next county without lusting, while my mother is nearly undone by a Sunday afternoon outing.
The strength of a personal stronghold, when triggered by a husbandly comment, combined with a twisted theological notion that it doesn’t matter so much if I give in to what feels good because I am covered with the Blood, is a powerful juggernaut. It requires steely concentration on truth and dying to virulent desire—the narrow versus wide road that Jesus lamented so few traverse. Much easier the momentarily satisfying succumbing, followed at some time later in the day by a blanket prayer for forgiveness of sins.
But I am sick of living the Christian life halfway. It’s half past middle age and approaching the days when the grasshopper drags himself along. And since my husband and I have been talking a lot lately about God’s promises of transformation, I suppose these topics were fresh in my mind. In any event, here I was confronted with a do-or-die moment, in which all theology and a thousand sermons hung in the balance and converged on one decision. The flesh was telling me, “How dare he complain about my food; I’m going to make him pay.” The Spirit was whispering, “Now is your chance to finally do the thing. You can do it.”
Evolution has a theory called “punctuated equilibrium,” which posits that progress in species occurs not gradually but in spurts after periods of very little change. That mechanism is favorable genetic mutation, but in the Bible the mechanism is obedience. A good way to tread water is to keep disobeying God at your greatest personal pressure point time after time. The author of Hebrews says we “ought to be teachers” by now, but we refuse to be “trained by constant practice” (Hebrews 5:12-14).
The corollary to the quiche testimony is that a bad thought popping into your head is an opportunity. Some Christians don’t understand this, so they walk around glumly convinced of their continuing utter depravity. But I rebuked and refused to give in to the thought, “How dare he complain about my food; I’m going to make him pay.” Though it spake like a god, it was a bluff: I could overcome it, and I did.
It is precisely in the crucible of excruciating pressure that we grow. What fools we be to succumb at our very growth points! The selfsame testing can make me a shade more like Satan or a shade more like God. The devil told Jesus to throw Himself off a cliff and reassure Himself that God would command angels to catch Him. Jesus discerned Satan’s game and rebuked him, audibly. He was reaching for that perfection that comes through obedience (Hebrews 2:10). Having attained it, He went on to save us from the power of sin.