"The Day I Wanted to Punch Somebody"
“Those who live according to the flesh have their minds set on what the flesh desires; but those who live in accordance with the Spirit have their minds set on what the Spirit desires.” Romans 8:5 (NIV)
At first it seemed like a wonderful idea to take my boys to the mall on the craziest shopping day of the whole year. We piled into the car and left home excited about all the deals we’d find. My optimism soon faded as we reached the line of cars twisting out of the parking lot onto the road.
I dropped my sons off in front of their favorite store and promised to join them as soon as I found a parking space.
However, each space I saw was immediately filled by the nearest car, and the weight of frustration began to press on my chest. My blood pressure rose with each passing minute.
I inched my car around the corner of the next row, hoping to be released from the snarl, only to be blocked by an enormous SUV driven by a man chauffeuring his family. One of us had to back up, and it seemed like he had more room behind him than I did.
So, I smiled and motioned a request for him to back up to let me pass. Shockingly, the man motioned back at me with an obvious lack of the pleasantness I had hoped to convey. He refused to budge.
Suddenly, the girl many have referred to as “sweet” … the girl who usually doesn’t struggle with anger or take quick offense … the girl who knows violence is the wrong solution to conflict … suddenly that girl’s imagination began to swirl. I pictured myself getting out of the car, screaming insults and jabbing my finger in the man’s chest until he humbly backed his car out of my way. In the heat of my rage, I seriously contemplated creating a scene.
However, the still-functioning part of my brain realized this man wasn’t going to give way, so roiling with anger, I carefully backed up into traffic for him to pass, glaring at him and his posse as he drove by.
About an hour later, after I finally found a parking space, I nearly walked right into the man and his family coming out of a store. My heart sank, and I was filled with shame.
Suddenly, I had a new picture in my mind: Me in the parking lot with a sign on my forehead that said, “I love Jesus and follow Him.”
Until our close-encounter outside the safe buffer zone of my car, my still simmering fury seemed justified. Now deflated, I faced my own fault.
Today’s key verse calls my initial reaction “the flesh.” In studying this verse alongside another translation, I found an exact description of my response. “If you live your life animated by the flesh — namely, your fallen, corrupt nature — then your mind is focused on the matters of the flesh. But if you live your life animated by the Spirit — namely, God’s indwelling presence — then your focus is on the work of the Spirit” (Romans 8:5, The Voice).
Although it’s my heart’s desire to live by the Spirit, reflecting God’s indwelling presence to those around me, that day I allowed my flesh to rise up. Instead of being fixated on the things of the Spirit, I focused on what my flesh wanted … a bargain on material things, a parking space and my own way.
Where our mind is set determines where our actions go.
Thankfully, the man and his family didn’t seem to recognize me, but I was instantly humbled and repentant when I saw them. Whispering a prayer to God, I asked for His forgiveness and for restoration in my heart and mind to the work of the Spirit. When our flesh rises up, asking God to reset our focus returns us to right relationship with Him and others.
Lord, my mind’s focus can stray so easily, leading me to live in the flesh instead of in the presence of Your Spirit. Help me start each day by gazing at You so I can live each moment setting my heart, soul and mind on You. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.
TRUTH FOR TODAY:
Galatians 5:22-23, “The Holy Spirit produces a different kind of fruit: unconditional love, joy, peace, patience, kindheartedness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. You won’t find any law opposed to fruit like this.” (The Voice)