Instincts:A Help or Hindrance in our Spiritual Journey

Editor’s note:Jim Simon is an active-contemplative on the order of Gregory the Great who resides in No. IL. Jim also serves on the Renovator Ministry board and is a Lectio Divina spiritual director.

Everyday people use their instincts to avoid things.  If you are walking along and come up to a hole in the sidewalk instinct tells you, that if it is small enough to step over or walk around it.  If you are riding a bike and you come to a street instinct tells you to look both ways prior to crossing the road.  Breathing is an instinct, ducking when something is flying at your head is an instinct.

So in this context instincts seem pretty trustworthy and acceptable to follow.  It makes sense to do so when it prevents physical harm from coming to you.

If we take this one step farther and look at instinct as it relates to our spiritual wellbeing I would say that in this context more often than not our instincts let us down.  If becoming Christ-like requires getting real with ourselves and becoming vulnerable, then our instinct is to turn and run.  When we find out that being a follower of Jesus will shed light on all of our faults and imperfections and bring all darkness to the surface then our instinct again is to turn and run.

What about confessing our sins to a family member or close friend?  This is absolutely unheard of and very scary.  Our instinct is to mash it all down inside and hope that no one will ever see it.  It is much easier and much more comfortable for us as long as no one can see past the pretty exterior into our brokenness.  And if someone decides to get real and put themselves out there then it ultimately becomes easier for us to turn a blind eye to our problems, because at least we are better people than “that other guy or girl”.

Why is it so easy to be so self-centered?  Why is it the natural response to preserve one’s self at all costs (at least the outward appearance)? I bet that if we put ourselves out there, if we really got down and dirty and became completely vulnerable and showed our brokenness that Jesus could not only redeem the broken pieces, but could also use our brokenness in glorious ways to help other broken people.

It is this very instinct to hide ourselves and protect ourselves from others that ultimately smothers our relationship with Jesus and makes us slaves.  We are binding ourselves in shackles of our own making.  Jesus did all the work at Calvary all we have to do is approach Him with a humble, sinful, broken heart and admit that we don’t have it all together.  This will start a change that will be magnificent.  No longer will we be steeped in sin.  No longer will the evil one be able to keep us second guessing our salvation.  No longer will our past hold us captive in the present.

It is time to get real.  It is time to admit that you are broken. It is time to thank God for your brokenness because when you finally hit rock bottom, when you finally see what you were then Jesus will meet you there and show you the new you.  We need to retrain our instincts, we need to stop worrying about what makes us sinners and start looking towards the One who makes us Saints.

Remember “we do not have a High Priest who cannot sympathize with our weaknesses, but was in all points tempted as we are, yet without sin. Let us therefore come boldly to the throne of grace that we may obtain mercy and find grace to help in time of need.” (Hebrews 4:15-16).

The next time instinct tells you push it all down and let it fester Jesus says to come Boldly to the throne of grace.

There is no grace to be had if you let instinct keep running you down the rabbit hole.


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