During the past month, I’ve had an amazing experience—little, but significant. I’ve found that by relaxing and focusing on Jesus, my soul seems to drift backwards a little and rest in Him. And I’m protected—especially from my cravings, the power of lust.
After this happened several times, I realized what was going on. This experience is described in the old-time hymn, “Leaning on the Everlasting Arms.”
We used to sing “Leanings” regularly at the Wednesday night community dinners at Prince of Peace Lutheran in Cincinnati, and I dismissed it as a campmeeting jig—another example of sloppy Christian sentimentality set to a lively tune.
So, I was surprised in two ways. (1) It was composed by a Presbyterian elder in Dalton, Georgia, in 1887, and (2) it described accurately what I had experienced. Here are the opening lyrics—
“What a fellowship, what a joy divine, leaning on the everlasting arms. What a blessedness, what a peace is mine, leaning on the everlasting arms.
“Leaning, leaning, safe and secure from all alarms; leaning, leaning, leaning on the everlasting arms. (At the same time, the bases are singing, “Leaning on Jesus, leaning on Jesus.”)
How has this experience been different for me? I don’t do anything; Jesus does it all. He literally seems to take me in His arms and protect me. It’s a marvel.
And it’s a contrast—a contrast to the many gimmicks in which I’ve tried to curb my cravings and failed. Mark Twain accurately described the problem: “I’m a staunch believer in giving up smoking. I’ve done it hundreds of times.”
While my problem isn’t cigars, Mark hit the nail. Most self-improvement efforts fail because we focus on the problem, and sooner or later our cravings overcome us. Alone, we don’t have the power or will or desire to fight them off.
Here are some of the gimmicks I’ve tried:
* I’ll donate $50 to church if I give in to lust.
* Or, I’ll give $50 to my accountability partner if I give in. That didn’t work, so I upped it to $100. That didn’t work either.
* Three months ago, I thought I’d found the winning combination. An article in Charisma magazine quoted Job 31:1. “I have made a covenant with my eyes; why then should I look upon a young woman?” The article went on to explain the significance of an Old Testament covenant. Their counterpart of our notary seal was the covenant parties cutting an ox in half and walking between the severed pieces. This action symbolized “Let this same slaughter happen to me if I break this covenant.”
* So, I did as the article recommended. I made a series of covenants with God and signed them. This was a new experience. It added terror to my motivations for keeping clean. As recommended by the article, I made each covenant for a limited time—at first, two days, then a week, then a month.
* And I discovered the built-in problem: Did I focus on Jesus? No I focused on the end of the covenant when I could fall off the wagon again. Still, the covenant and I succeeded for the two- day session and the week, but the month was too much, and I broke it.
* The LORD has been merciful. He hasn’t taken vengeance. Yet.
Then, I discovered this soulful leaning on Jesus. It’s so easy, so powerful. He does it; not me.
Thank You, Jesus.
And recently, I also discovered another weapon from an unexpected source—Psalm 137—a dirge which begins: "By the waters of Babylon we sat down and wept, when we remembered you, O Zion.” And it ends with: "O Daughter of Babylon, doomed to destruction, happy the one who pays you back for what you have done to us! Happy shall he be who takes your little ones, and dashes them against the rock!" We don’t hear many sermons on that text.
But the rule of St. Benedict gives the following counsel: When talking dealing with temptations, take evil thoughts while they’re weak and dash them against Christ. It works.
But, of course, all this requires that we turn to Jesus when temptation strikes. And often, I choose not to turn to Him. But I also know that when I want His protection, He’s there.
Purpose of this blog is to compile books for my grandchildren to read in 25 years.
Copyright © 2013 by Jack Towe
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