Waking up this morning, I was tempted to wallow. The start of Thanksgiving week began with a bout of body aches. But those are the least of my woes. I woke up today fighting my self.
The self is that opponent I seldom slug. I pull my punch. I love him too much. But even when I do - by grace - knock him down, he is never out. Inevitably, out of my periphery I see him getting up off the canvas. He is relentless. He is as unwelcome to me as a sunrise to the sleepless. I would know.
What's more, there are no neutral corners with him. He can't hear the bell. He won't stay down. And like a seasoned sparring partner, he knows my soft targets.
Self-pity: My sin; my guilt; my fits of anxiety and my bouts of depression; my loss of health, fitness, dignity, friendships; those are the fast jabs. Those are the blows that hit me swiftly and quickly each day. While they don't knock me out, they hurt as deeply as any. Even as I type this sentence, they make my eyes water.
Self-promotion: Oh how I want to humbly brag. I long for attention, demand respect, and crave the credit. I want to compare resumes, accomplishments and reach. Look at me! Don't forget me. I've been on those shows, featured in those magazines. My sin makes me want to be regarded and rewarded. I still want a name for my self.
Self-righteousness: As if because I toe the line on various matters in the fitness industry I can think highly of myself, I privately judge and quietly pat my back. Even typing that sentence seems to satisfy me in ways I know aren't godly. I should throw in the towel, because my good works are rags.
I could go on. The fearsome battle rages. If only I could simply tell my self that I've had enough. But that's not enough. Tozer says, "Self is the opaque veil that hides the face of God from us. It can only be removed by spiritual experience. The veil is made of living tissue. It's made of the quivering stuff of which our whole beings consist, and to touch it is to touch us where we feel pain. To tear it away is to injure us, to hurt us and to make us bleed. To say otherwise is to make the cross no cross, and death no death at all. We must bring our self-sins to the cross for judgement. It is never fun to die."
That's the fight I'm talking about. That's the reason behind my pugilistic theme. As I grapple with the flu, I think that's how best to approach a week of thankfulness and gratefulness. It's deeply satisfying to think of the day when my self will no longer dare raise his fists.
That's the fight. That by His grace we are set free, forgiven, saved, delivered and healed. That's why we get up again to mix it up in the middle. Grace doesn't make us soft. Gentle, thankful, grateful but not soft. It doesn't give our self a break.
That's the fight. That as we thank God for food, shelter, clean water, the gift of fitness, ability, motivation, working limbs and muscles that respond, we thank Him most for going the distance. For loving us that much. For seeing beyond our faults and meeting our direst need.
Someday it will come naturally for us. Until then, we do what isn't natural, easy or painless. We put up our dukes and we fight. We bring our self to the cross.
- Jimmy Peña
For Discussion: What are you grateful for today? What are you thankful for as you fight your fight? Clean water? Sober children? Forgiving spouses? Healed illness? Or maybe your thankfulness isn't nestled in any of these, but in knowing Heaven will make sense of earth? Love to know.