I Can't Do This Sam!
In 2002 part two of Peter Jackson's trilogy "Lord of the Rings" hit the silver screen to the delight of Tolkien fans worldwide. "The Two Towers" was all that it was promised to be and more. Epic scenery, a rich cast of characters, and a great script, overlaid Tolkien's tale of the ultimate triumph of good and over evil. Toward the end of movie the two main heroes , Sam and Frodo are overcome with exhaustion both physical and spiritual at the end of the battle of Osgiliath. Providence has chosen Frodo to carry the ring of power that corrupts all who touch it to its destruction in the fires of Mount Doom. At this welcome pause in the destruction, a terrible realization sweeps over Frodo as he confesses to his faithful companion, "I can't do this Sam."
There comes to we Christians at some point in our journey a time when we realize that what we have been called to is, humanly speaking, impossible. If you think Christianity is about your becoming morally perfect in this life you are destined to disappointment. Every young Christian feels that he is the one that is going to do better than those before him, that he is "going through" when others around him have failed. He feels his trust to be in God when it is really in himself and his will to obey. This is not evil on his part, but very natural and necessary.
But just as Sam and Frodo realized they had been walking in circles during their journey thru the Dead Marshes, we realize at some point that in our flesh, in our own nature and person, we seem not to be any better at all, but rather, worse. Motives and actions we once were proud of now seem shameful. We'd rather not discuss them. Everything we raise our hand to do it seems pervaded with dark motives that bring us shame and discouragement. People laud our accomplishments and we change the subject. I may not be speaking to you today, but I speak to someone. At some point in these waves of discouragement we say to ourselves, "I can't do this!", not as an expression of anger, but of unavoidable, sorrowful resignation. We can't pretend any longer. We give up.
It is telling that the Christian life begins with Truth, that is, an honest confession of our sinfulness and need of a savior. And when we reach this cul-de-sac of discouragement the only escape is by the way we came. We must tell the truth. If Christianity is only about morality we have failed. We are not going to the ball, we are not going to heaven. We are unworthy, miserable servants who have not done what we should have done, and have done wickedly what we should have not. If this doesn't apply to you I apologize. But for those who arrive here by way of Truth we must play it to the end.
"Except your righteousness exceed that of the Scribes and Pharisees, you shall no way enter into the kingdom of God" were Jesus' words to those who surrounded him. The Pharisees were meticulous nit-pickers of religious duty, fasting multiple days a week, paying tithes of all they possessed, virtual icons of righteousness to those who watched them. Jesus' comment was a death sentence to every honest soul who heard it. The honest hearts who heard him were likely to become the second man in the parable of the two men who went to the temple to pray.
How in the world can being overwhelmed by our wickedness result in being justified before God (Luke 18:10)? It is because despair at sinfulness is akin to admitting one is blind, that he cannot find his way home, to worthiness, completeness and joy. "If you were blind ye had no sin" Jesus again tell the religious in John 9:41, "but now you say, "we see", therefore your sin remains". When we come to this painful and unavoidable juncture in our Christian journey we must bow our heads low, beat upon our breasts and cry "Lord, be merciful to me, a sinner". We must become the Second Man because we are the Second Man. If we insist that we can see, that we are righteous in ourselves, our sin remains. The Spirit of Truth resides within us and His task is to bring us safely home to our father. When I said in an earlier post that we are to "esteem others better than yourself" (Philippians 2:3) I wasn't telling you to lie. You really are to think others better than yourself. Really. Trust me, you'll figure it out.
Religion is a mad rush, trampling over those before like Black Friday at Walmart, to be the best, to win the prize of acceptance with God.
But, ironically, journeying the kingdom of God is a descent to the bottom, the first being last, with The Greatest being the least, the servant of all, each admitting that he is more unworthy than his fellows. Unintuitive, I know, but necessary and cleansing.
Like Frodo we cry in despair, "I can't do this!" , or like Paul, "who will save me from the body of this death?" No human can save you . . but Jesus can . . and already has!
"because I live, ye shall live also” (John 14:19). That's not a maybe . .