Take Another Street

“I do not understand my own actions, for I do not do what I want, but the very thing I hate.” Romans 7:15

Sometimes I’m very tired of me. I commit the same sins, have the same defects of character, and get myself into the same kind of trouble I’ve had for years. There is nothing new under the sun.

I’m not being pessimistic, and I don’t want you to feel sorry for me. I also don’t need those of you who know me to agree too enthusiastically. I’m just being honest. In my journey upward I fall and fail quite often. I know what God wants me to be and do. I know it in the original Greek. But I fall short so often, and sometimes I can’t even understand why.

That’s what Paul was getting at in Romans 7. “I do not understand my own actions.” Sounds like Paul could understand any struggling alcoholic or addict, or any honest and reflective person who struggles with unhealthy attachments and making the same mistake over and over.

But there is a way forward, and  that reminds me of a poem by Portia Nelson entitled "Autobiography in Five Short Chapters.”

Chapter I:
I walk down the street.
There is a deep hole in the sidewalk.
I fall in.
I am lost … I am helpless.
It isn't my fault.
It takes forever to find a way out.

Chapter II:
I walk down the same street.
There is a deep hole in the sidewalk.
I pretend I don't see it.
I fall in again.
I can't believe I am in the same place,
but it isn't my fault.

Chapter III:
I walk down the same street.
There is a deep hole in the sidewalk.
I see it is there.
I still fall in … it's a habit.
My eyes are open.
I know where I am. It is my fault.
I get out immediately.

Chapter IV:
I walk down the same street.
There is a deep hole in the sidewalk.
I walk around it.

Chapter V:
I walk down another street.

I’ve fallen down several holes so often I’m surprised God still has anything to do with me. But that is the nature of grace. God is trying to help me take another street, and eventually I do. He never gives up on me.

As much as I am to rely on God, however, I do have a responsibility to stop going down the same street when someone has given me a better set of directions. Yes, God never tires of giving me the same directions. Life sure is easier the sooner I learn to listen.

To change the metaphor just a bit, I have fallen down and gotten back up too many times to count. God keeps working with me, loving me, forgiving me, and ensuring that when I breathe my last the ledger will read that I got up one more time than I fell down.


Dr. Terry Ellis
May 31, 2015