The voice begins at unexpected intervals. Yesterday it interrupted my driving. “You’re not that good, really. You can pretend to be a tutor, but you know you’re faking. And what about your housekeeping? Or canning? The beans are rotting in the garden. You’re wasting your time…”
Whoo! What an ugly noise it makes, enough to make my innards quiver. My confidence deflates like a pot of fresh greens brought to a steam. If I am not careful my thoughts can lie there, green and slimy. Is there anyone who has not heard this foul muttering? Rather than roll over to have our hearts consumed by these vultures, let’s scare them off with the flash of reflected truth. The redeemed soul is alive, growing, and sustained by God.
A machine as any mechanical device that helps us do work. Its value comes from its capacity to perform something of benefit. Have you ever noticed the way those critical voices assume you are the sum of your performance? The car mechanic who removes the worn ball-joint from my car has found it unfit for its task and he throws it away as useless. When a plastic container cracks in the freezer the housekeeper throws it out. This principle applied to humans leads the naive to conclude if he fails he is worthless.
A similar kind of reasoning is to excuse poor behavior entirely on external causes. The London riots, some say, are the natural result of the poverty of the youth, as if their output can be no other given the input. We are predictable machines controlled by outside forces, if you believe it. I don’t. What machine has a will or intelligence or compassion? Only the human soul is capable of self-control, a gift undervalued in our day. When assailed by the fog of self-doubt, remember we are alive to God in Christ Jesus and that didn’t come as a result of our performance!
The nasty voices perceive human nature as something stuck in a permanent position. This spirit of condemnation says, “This person has failed and will never change.” Classifying souls with the same criteria as objects, we forget that where there is life, there is growth. A broken object is not going to change for the better (though it might disintegrate.) It can’t heal itself and it can’t improve. While we are right to make a decision to chuck that broken spatula, we misapply this principle to souls made in the image of the living God. Life is never still! The teen who appears to be permanently molded to resist work suddenly finds a passion that fires him through a long day of activity. Weren’t we silly to worry?
We are amazing creations, constantly converting our experience into wisdom, our understanding into new action. That condemning voice whispers from cruel naiveté when it insinuates our weakness is all we will ever be. Living creatures grow. We are living plants in the house of the Lord, where we will flourish.
“Nothing can help you,” the voice says. “You can’t help being what you are.” In this it is the most mistaken! Any child of God can laugh it to silence. We are certainly not alone! Where our enemy thinks of us as a tool that can be handled, defined by our weakness, and utterly helpless, the truth sings to our hearts that God loves us deeply and intimately. If He is a vine, we are His branches. If we are corn growing in a field, He is the rain and sun that sustain us. Our roots cling tenaciously to the earth; our life has a hidden source beyond appearances. The mysterious activity of the Holy Spirit to will and to work out in us God’s pleasure is incomprehensible to our critics. For His name’s sake He moves us to repentance and bursts of growth that have no other explanation. We can do all things through Christ who strengthens us.
Who is this corruption that speaks such lies into our hearts? Surely these voices are aligned with the accuser of the brethren. When we hear the lying voices let’s override them with the sound of the truth: the redeemed soul is alive and growing and sustained by our loving Lord. It is more than it seems. At every opportunity let’s remind our children, students, and friends that we are safe in His clasp and that from the curl of His hand we can laugh at the voices until they falter and fade in the music of our joy.