G.K. Chesterton, the Christian apologist, answered a request from the London Times for an essay on "What's Wrong with the World?" with two simple words: "I am."
In 1991 I had just started a new job as Clinical Coordinator for a Christian treatment program for adolescents. The ironic thing about it was, I wasn't a Christian. Further, I didn't understand the big fuss about Christianity (in my psychological expertise it was incompatible with sound clinical treatment), and the Bible-freaky people around me made me uncomfortable. Yes, kids, before I was a Christian...I wasn't.
The program manager who had hired me hadn't thought my faith was a big deal and just figured I could "fake it." Well, God had other plans. Thank goodness!
She gave me an assignment typing (1991...no computer) up the Christian 12 Steps for our program packet. Each had Scripture accompanying it. The verse for the first step ("We admitted we were powerless over our addiction and our lives had become unmanageable") was:
And I know that nothing good lives in me, that is, in my sinful nature. (Romans 7:18 NLT)
Well, that verse just really irritated me.
I was a good person! The nerve--"nothing good dwells in me"! And sin--I had a Masters degree in counseling psychology, for crying out loud...sin was a ridiculous word. People were sick, victims of disorders, dysfunction, addictions--not sinful! Ergh. Grumble. Growl!
Do you know, I messed up every time I typed that verse out? And since my program manager was adamant there would be no white-out on my draft, I had to retype it over...and over...and over. It was like one of those dreams where you are trying to run and your feet won't move. It felt like slow-motion, leaded and heavy. Oh, was I irked. Dumb fanatical Christians. I did NOT have a sinful nature.
Fast forward through a lot of life events and baby whispers from the Lord awakening a curious passion in my heart to April 1996 when I bowed my head, admitted my sinful nature, and yielded my life to the Savior who is the only hope for it.
In every Bible I have owned since then, I have written in the margin next to Romans 7:18, "fall 1991" and a big smiley face. Yep, I agree--nothing good dwells in me, that is, in my sinful nature...and I can laugh with God now over how He put my face in that verse until I knew it.
I can echo the words of John Newton, the former slave trader who became a minister and hymn writer ("Amazing Grace"): "My memory is nearly gone;
but I remember two things;
That I am a great sinner, and
that Christ is a great Saviour."