I return to some of the writings of E. Stanley Jones (1947, The Way) this morning. I read his bold but simple statement:
“Men cannot get along with each other because they cannot get along with themselves, and they cannot get along with themselves because they cannot get along with God.”
I think about getting along with God, myself, and then others–in that order. But how do I get along with myself? I remember the image my counselor gave me to help me understand how to find peace in my mind when I always felt at war with myself. I keenly and deeply felt the reality of Romans 7:18-25 where Paul famously describes a rather sophisticated psychology:
For I know that good itself does not dwell in me, that is, in my sinful nature. For I have the desire to do what is good, but I cannot carry it out. For I do not do the good I want to do, but the evil I do not want to do—this I keep on doing. Now if I do what I do not want to do, it is no longer I who do it, but it is sin living in me that does it. So I find this law at work: Although I want to do good, evil is right there with me. For in my inner being I delight in God’s law; but I see another law at work in me, waging war against the law of my mind and making me a prisoner of the law of sin at work within me. What a wretched man I am! Who will rescue me from this body that is subject to death? Thanks be to God, who delivers me through Jesus Christ our Lord!
I had cried out to the wise doctor: “What do I do with all of these desires and plans that oppose God’s plan for me? It’s like there’s two of me! What do I do with this other girl–the one controlled by the sin nature? How shall I handle her? I’m at war with the different parts of myself! Help! Help!” I was in my twenties, and I wanted to live a godly life but knew I couldn’t. I was so emotional and self-obsessed and negative.
But part of me wasn’t. Part of me loved God, felt so steady inside, and didn’t need attention or any kind of control. That part of me felt so right.
My counselor said something funny and so helpful–and it gave me the gentle picture I needed to rethink this “war within.” He said:
“Treat all those emotions like a little girl in the back seat of your car who is throwing a tantrum because she doesn’t want to go where you’re going. You–the one God is leading and empowering–drives. You don’t throw that little girl out of the car; she’s a part of you. But she doesn’t have power anymore. She can scream all she wants, but she’s not driving the car. And if you don’t give in to her–like any screaming toddler–eventually, she stops screaming and will settle down, look out the window, and enjoy the view of this new adventure.”
So I drove on. She still screamed, but not as loudly. I kept driving, and I truly did begin to find peace with God and myself. It wasn’t a war within anymore. It was a country drive with the girl in me that would eventually enjoy the ride.