My in-laws took Matt and me on a trip to a safari park just after Christmas in 2012. Though the animals were contained, we actually went into the different enclosures to see them, often just a few feet away!
One of the things that intrigued me were the giraffes. I had noticed that the barns the giraffes lived in looked worn around the top, as if they had been repeatedly rubbed. I honestly thought the animals had never gotten the hang of ducking when they went in and had bumped their heads so much that it wore a bare spot! When we came to a second barn with giraffes in it, I learned the real cause: one giraffe was standing in the doorway licking the wood, like in the picture.
I asked our guide what the heck was going on with the giraffes, “Are they eating bugs in the wood?” I wondered aloud. His response surprised me. It turns out that giraffes spend so much of their time foraging for food in the wild, that even when they are in captivity and given the exact amount of food they need on a regular basis, their tongues just can’t help but go on pretending like they are still foraging for food. Their tongues just itch to do what a giraffe’s tongue was made to do, even when it doesn’t make sense anymore!
The past few months, I’ve been part of a medical weight loss program. This means that I am on a strict, prescribed diet of shakes, soups, and bars and have regular medical tests to make sure that my body is adjusting well. Every day, I have the exact nutrition I need. I drink plenty of water. I have everything I require, yet I find myself fighting habits like taking a bite of my son’s chicken nuggets or licking the spoon when packing up leftover food. I’m finding that it’s not really hunger that drives a lot of my counterproductive behavior. It’s simply the way I’ve always done things.
I received a phone call from a friend trying to make sense of Romans 6 some months ago. He wondered what Paul was trying to communicate to the church about life in Christ. I remember translating that very passage from the original Greek in seminary and wondering myself what Paul meant.
“6 We know that our old sinful selves were crucified with Christ so that sin might lose its power in our lives. We are no longer slaves to sin. 7 For when we died with Christ we were set free from the power of sin.“
I understand that Jesus’ death and resurrection means Christians no longer face eternal death. I think I’ve always read the above passage in light of eternal truth. This passage makes me wrestle with life today, though. Later in Romans 6, Paul urges his readers to use their bodies to do what is right and to choose to obey God (verses 13 & 16, respectively). What if believing in Jesus means we don’t have to be mastered by the same habits for the rest of our lives? What if we really are new people, not just on the inside? What if new life begins today?
Well, that changes everything. It makes the habits I have a choice. It reveals all of my excuses as lame. Sin nature may stick to me like fresh sap, but I am cleansed and have the power of God at work within me every moment. So I am presented with the defining question, “What am I going to do in this moment?”
Every moment I can choose to be who I was, to live like I always have. It’s much easier that way, reflexive even, and there will be many moments I will choose that. But in this moment, I choose to do the hard work of presenting myself to God, asking for his help in changing me, and pressing on to take hold of the life for which God has taken hold of me (Philippians 3:12).
What are you going to do in this moment?