I Do The Very Thing I Hate (Audio)
July 6, 2014
Calvary - St. George's Church, NYC
My dad used to smoke three packs of cigarettes a day every day. It used to seem like he was always smoking; it used to seem like he always had a cigarette in his hand. He smoked outdoors, and, yes, these were the days before most everyone avoided smoking indoors. I remember praying every night before bed with my mom and brother for dad to stop smoking. I even went so far as to raise my hand one Sunday morning during prayer request time to ask the pastor to pray for my dad’s addiction. It didn’t seem to have any effect. My dad kept right on smoking.
One day, while my dad was driving me home, I asked him why--if he hated smoking so much--he didn’t just quit. In the past my dad had made it very clear to me that smoking was bad for you and that I was never to light up, but until then I had never asked him why he continued to smoke. I had never been that direct before. In response, my dad told me that the reason he didn’t stop smoking was because he loved it. Loved it. I remember immediately correcting him, “No, you’re addicted to it, but you don’t love it.” But my dad didn’t back down. He told me that while he knew it was bad for him, and for that reason he hated it, he also loved it. I was baffled. How could he say he loved something that killed him? More than that, how could he say that he loved something he hated? How could someone hate and love something at the same time? Despite my protests, my dad affirmed his conflicting viewpoints, and my little mind was introduced to the complex irrationality that is the divided will.
This memory came to mind while I was reading this morning’s epistle lesson. In it Paul writes, “I do not understand my own actions. For I do not do what I want, but I do the very thing I hate.” How many of you can resonate with this kind of inner conflict? Maybe for you it isn’t smoking. Maybe you’ve tried to diet, but you just couldn’t keep at it. Maybe you’ve tried to deal with your bad temper, but it just won’t go away. Maybe you’ve tried to stay under your credit card limit, but another month goes by and you’re still in the red. Maybe you’ve tried to stop resenting the success of others, but when they’re successful in keeping their diet and you aren’t, you can’t help but resent them. You know the kind of people I’m talking about, don’t you hate them!... “For I do not do what I want, but I do the very thing I hate.”