Kathleen Norris tells a story of a little boy who wrote a poem called “The Monster Who Was Sorry.” The poem begins with a confession: he doesn’t like it when his father yells at him. The monster’s response is to throw his sister down the stairs, then to destroy his room, and finally, to destroy the whole town. The poem concludes: “Then I sit in my messy house and say to myself, ‘I shouldn’t have done all that.’”
The confession of the apostle Paul bears a fine resemblance: “I do not understand what I do. For what I want to do I do not do, but I do what I hate” (Romans 7:15). Regret has a way of shining the floodlights on the mess within us.
If we are honest, we must admit that we identify fully with both the little boy and the Apostle Paul. Our Christian journey has often caused us to peer at the monster and the “messy house” the monster leaves within. With Paul, we cry, “Wretched man that I am! Who shall deliver me out of the body of this death?” (Romans 7:24)
Paul’s confession marks the futility of our own efforts to clean the messy house. But we do not make the journey to the depths of ourselves alone. In fact, we would not have even discovered the messes had they not been shown to us in the first place. It is the Holy Spirit that reveals the ugly truth to each of us, but it is also that same Spirit that encourages us with the hope of a way out of our dilemma.
Just as we are shown the ugliness of the monster within, so too are we allowed to see the beauty of the One who alone can tame the monster and clean our inner house. “Surely he took up our infirmities and carried our sorrows… But he was pierced for our transgressions, crushed for our iniquities” (Isaiah 53:4-5).
Thanks be to God who, through Jesus, has made provision for our need! In the very next chapter of Romans, immediately after Paul has bemoaned his utter futility, he declares, “There is therefore now no condemnation to them that are in Christ Jesus.” (Romans 8:1).
Jesus tames our monster and cleans our house. He alone removes from us the condemnation of sin.
Keeping the faith,