A Wretch Like Me

September 15, 2018, 21:53

They use a 24-hour clock here. He is adjusting.

He remembers seeing a sign with a quote: “Write drunk, edit sober.” Attributed to Ernest Hemingway; hanging on a wall in Powell’s Books in Portland.

It’s Saturday night, and his roommate has purchased SKYY (vodka) and Kentucky Gentleman (bourbon). He likes the taste, the way liquor breaks apart the cells in his mouth, causing them to be numb and tingle.

He is alone in his apartment.

P. T. Barnum says, according to Hollywood, Goodreads, and Pinterest, that the noblest art is that of making others happy.

Does this make you happy?

Does your soul sing because you know God is faithful? Do Mack Brock and Amanda Cook move you, making you aware of your un-aloneness and the everlasting presence of the Father, here, in the room with you, now and forever?

Hallelujah, to the end. God be praised.

Amen. Let it be so.

He utters words, stopping to pray when Netflix will not stream as it should. He sees a circle, buffering, and decides to leave his twin bed and return to his Pavilion m6 with a newly-installed SSD thanks to a generous best-friend. Do it for the friends and the family—who else will read this, anyway?

Who else?

Thanks to Mineo, Lecrae, Wickham, Zayas, and Good News Today. You are, again, words on a page, a screen. But you transcend, you are more than that.

There is a conflict of two natures. He is of flesh, sold into chains, wrapped up in sin and perverseness and depravity. He may never have committed adultery in the 10-commandments-sense (he isn’t married, anyway), but he has committed lust, the sermon-on-the-mount kind as redefined by his Lord and Savior and Skye Jethani on a podcast he listened to, earlier today.

What would he like to do? He would like, in his mind, to please God. He agrees with Paul—he studies Romans 7 and sees that there is nothing good that dwells in his flesh. But he is flesh, is he not? He found a gym not far from his apartment and ran 0.7 miles to meet a man named Zhu who offers a yearly membership for 1,580 RMB. He wants to accept because they have showers, a bench press, and a patio. Plus, the environment is conducive to bodily improvement, unlike the teacher’s or student’s gym on campus.

His queue runs empty, and now he just types in silence.

He practices the evil he does not wish to do, and it is because of sin which dwells in him. He watches porn because he ignores the other nature, because he is weak. It’s not a habit, though, which he tells himself to justify. It’s just a minor slip, he says. But he won’t get on his knees and repent—not until Sunday, at least—because he feels too guilty after the deed is done.

I am the one who wants to do good.

His Bible is open on his lap; it is dark, and he turns his head from page to screen, letting his fingers do the work. His mind, the mind that Paul says wants to do good, is stimulated by a depressant. It sees a war, waged in the members of his body—WRETCHED MAN!

“Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord! So then, on the one hand I myself with my mind am serving the law of God, but on the other, with my flesh the law of sin” (Rom. 7.25). He, too, struggles with sin.

And where is his victory over sin, when he falls?

He is delivered from bondage, so says the heading of Romans 8 in his New American Standard Version. There is “no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus” (Rom. 8.1). No katakrima even though his guilt is established and he sits, eyes to the floor, as Jesus takes his place.

His mind is more than the brain upstairs: it is the visceral and cognitive aspects of thinking, the parts of him that go beyond intellect and a + b = c. It comes from his chest, from the muscles around his heart. It keeps him from leaving the zoo, where his dead scratches and honest confessions are on view for every gaze, every voyeur.

He is either in Christ Jesus or in his flesh. On his way to life and peace or on his way to death, for the mind set on flesh “does not subject itself to the law of God” and “cannot please God” (Rom. 7.7-8). And what is the law of God, if not to love him and thy neighbor?

I wish to please you, Father. Do I?

Do I make you happy? Do I make you happy? Do I make you happy? Do I make you happy? Do I make you happy? Do I make you happy? Do I make you happy? Do I make you happy? Do I make you happy? Do I make you happy? Do I make you happy? Do this make you happy?

Is mine a noble art?

Writing sobers him, and he rinses his glass in the sink. Pees clear in the porcelain pot, brushes his teeth, hears the electronic hum. He shuts down: body, mind, spirit, droopy eyelids, and cyborg bits wired to create when he should be sleeping. Give him a blank page, and he is Joyce; give him a drink, and he is every Portland hipster, ever. But the stream is dead, now, and his pond is covered in water lilies.

When will he become like Christ?

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