I have written here about my first amazing encounter with the Holy Spirit. It was within days of my salvation. Holy Spirit clearly and in no uncertain terms let me know that self-hatred is a sin which I must stop. The message was crystal clear, “You are defying God’s will when you hate what God loves. You must repent and change your ways.” And there was a final and unmistakably hopeful part of that instruction: “I will not let you fail.“
For a brand new Christian that was a stunning experience. The first few weeks were easy, and amazing. Holy Spirit was teaching me what it is like to live without self-hatred. That long-standing and intractable demon was simply gone: not there. Not even when I stopped myself and thought, “Wait a minute … where are all those negative thoughts I’d usually be having now?” They just simply weren’t there, not even available to call to mind when I challenged myself to do it.
But slowly, gradually, the training wheels came off. The lesson was clear: I have to take some of the responsibility for not committing this sin. I wrote:
“He could just make them all go away, easy-peasy for me. But that does not really change my relationship to that sin. I must have the ability to make a choice (note: Adam & Eve) and choose not to sin in order to truly have changed.”
And that was the beginning for me of the hard work of choosing not to commit the sin of self-hatred.
I often felt envy toward others (another sin … funny how they multiply like that) whom I imagined had “easier” sins to overcome like drinking, gambling, lust, etc.
I fell down numerous rabbit holes full of excuses. “I can’t help it. It’s because this and that happened to me in the past. I didn’t grow up right. My soul is broken. It’s not my fault.“
But sin is a choice. And choosing not to sin is also a choice. It may feel like a hard choice, but that doesn’t excuse the failure to make it.
I’ve been working on that. Sometimes more successfully than others. But working on it.
And then suddenly this past week I had a full-blown no-holes barred relapse. As in, right back to square #1.
And then I hated myself even more for having the relapse. It’s a vicious circle. I was afraid I couldn’t recover.
Satan is a formidable enemy.
The only saving grace for me is the strength of my belief. I believe God is still with me.
Feeling more broken and defeated than I have since the day I accepted Jesus into my heart, I prayed, “Please help me. I need you.“
And He did.
I can’t say that He totally bailed me out and made everything good again. What He did was stop what felt like a terrifying freefall. I felt the ground under my feet. I felt like I could stop, regroup, and regain a sense of equilibrium.
But I am still the one who needs to choose a life without that sin. This isn’t the Garden of Eden and the snake is out of the bag.
In the end, sin is sin. With God’s help, I still need to choose not to sin – and honestly, it doesn’t even matter what the sin is that I need to choose not to do.
I heard the lesson. I’ve taken it to heart. And I’m taking baby steps … learning to take responsibility for choosing not to sin.
I already know that some day I will be grateful for the strength of character I will get from this. But I’m not quite there yet.