Luke 11:4b (CEV)
And keep us from being tempted.
Pray … (Part 5)
Temptation is a tricky thing. There are things we know are wrong, things we know we shouldn’t do because they bring brokenness and destruction into our lives, and yet sometimes it seems like these things just keep on showing up and tripping us up.
And so it’s not too crazy for us to pray “keep us from being tempted.”
But then we have to ask ourselves … how, exactly, is that supposed to work?
I grew up in a world where I was taught (or at least inferred) that the solution to this temptation was to grit my teeth, pray really hard about it specifically, pile heaping doses of shame on top of myself and anyone else who ‘allowed’ themselves to be tempted, and then try really hard to avoid this thing that I was spending all of my time thinking about.
It’s possible that I misunderstood … that happens … but since I’ve heard many other people describe very similar ways of thinking, I don’t think I’m alone in this.
And that would be great if it worked.
But it doesn’t seem to be very effective.
Craig Greenfield, in ‘Subversive Jesus’ talks about this. He says, “Whenever we talk about the renunciation of possessions, there is the danger that it can become legalistic.”
Quoting Anthony de Mello of the Society of Jesus (the Jesuits) he goes on to say, “There’s a guru in India who says, ‘Every time a prostitute comes to me, she’s talking about nothing but God. She says, “I’m sick of this life that I’m living. I want God.” But every time a priest comes to me he’s talking about nothing but sex.’ When you renounce something, you become fixated with it. When you fight against something, you somehow become more tied to it. As long as you’re fighting it, you are giving it power.”
Then he finishes by saying, “This is the problem with trying to live simply. The key is not to pursue sacrifice, nor to renounce things. The key is to seek to understand their place, examine the hold they have over you, and then focus on pursuing something even better – radical and beautiful generosity.”
This is certainly what I’ve observed over the years. When I fixate on trying not to do a bad thing or a thing that I think will make God upset, then I find it cropping up over and over and over again. Then the shame kicks in and makes me feel like I’m not good enough – like I’ll never be good enough – and then it becomes harder to say no to that thing in the first place.
But on the flip side, when I focus on all of the awareness that we’ve been talking about this week – focused on the Father’s character; on the life He intended us to live in the Kingdom of shalom and wholeness He wants to bring about; on His provision for our needs and our role in being interconnected stewards of the needs of those around us and those around the world; on being honest about who we are and why life is hard for me and for those around me – then another option begins to become available.
You see, when I begin to cultivate spiritual disciplines – like rest and prayer, time in nature, gratitude, service, justice, worship, and so many more – I come to find myself far less concerned about trying to avoid the bad things and far more concerned about living into the good.
When I root myself deeply in the character of the Father, and in the fact that He made me in his own image, fashioned me after his own likeness, for his good purposes, then shame loses it’s power over me and I begin to taste a motivation fueled by love and not by fear.
When I practice living life the way God intended it to be lived, the temptations still come along, but I find them far less interesting, far less appealing, far less likely to draw me into things that will cause brokenness in my life and the lives of those around me.
It’s a lot more difficult to lose my temper at my kids when I’m being honest about why they’re acting the way that they are.
The advertisements are a lot less appealing when I am practicing a gratitude for the things that my Father is providing for me.
Power and wealth and fame don’t carry nearly the allure that they used to when I’m focused on the priorities of the Kingdom of shalom and wholeness that the Father is longing to bring to this world.
And the painful, broken coping strategies that we come up with to deal with our loneliness and disconnection feel less and less necessary the deeper into the relationship the Father is invited me into with the Son and the Holy Spirit.Journal Questions:
- How have you responded to temptation in the past?
- Is there anything in your life right now that you would be ashamed of, if anyone else found out it was part of your life?
- How do you deal with that shame and temptation?
- Do you find it getting any easier with time? Or does it just seem to keep getting harder?
- What would it look like for you to shift your attention off of the temptation and on to the things we’ve talked about this week?
- What spiritual disciplines might you need to cultivate?
- Want to talk about any of this? Please feel free to email as at [email protected].