Thursday, May 03, 2012

Theology Thursday #6: Obdurate Sin

I recently finished Stephen King's Novel 11/22/63. It is one of his best and I enjoyed it immensely. The plot revolves around the main protagonist Jake who travels back in time to the late 50s to eventually try to prevent the assassination of JFK. King is a master of description without being wordy. He's intelligent while not being highbrow. (In fact, he can be quite lowbrow at some times, and I appreciate it!) One phrase that sticks with me is: "the past is obdurate." (I know, this is a highbrow word. I couldn't help myself.)

Without spoiling the story (which is bloody brilliant, by the way) the meaning of this phrase is that the past "does not want" to be changed. Jake finds proverbial wrenches thrown in his plans to change the past at every turn. It made me think of how the past - one's own past - does not change. It can haunt you, if you let it.

Ancient Israel called sin hamartia, or missing the mark. The sin of a person's selfishness misses the mark only insofar as it harms both parties affected. "Sin" is such a loaded, judgmental word that I don't even like using it. Unfortunately, another one hasn't been found. To deny its existence because overtly religious folk have abused and twisted its meaning is simply burying one's head in the sand. Evil happens. Sin is. And our sins and regrets from the past seem obdurate, stubborn. They are sticky, like gum spit out in July on hot asphalt. You step in it, you'll know its stickiness.

In Hazelden's devotional Twenty-Four Hours a Day a phrase continues to be an earworm from my treatment days: those two awful eternities. Basically what they are saying is that the past and the future, with its sticky sins and its terrible fears does us no good. Here's the quote:

Anyone can fight the battles of just one day. It is only when you and I add the battles of those two awful eternities, yesterday and tomorrow, that we break down. It is not the experience of today that drives us mad. It is the remorse or bitterness for something that happened yesterday or the dread of what tomorrow may bring. Let us therefore do our best to live but one day at a time.

Sin may seem to stick to us. The past may continue to haunt us. Obdurate and stubborn, sin missing the mark is difficult to shake off (especially for perfectionists like me). But as a believer who hears the story as "truth-building", I believe that the haunting of the past or the fear of the future are just phantoms of a different reality, a reality without Jesus of Nazareth. 

Fortunately for us, we have a different story.

It makes the sin a whole lot less sticky. I hate being sticky, don't you?


Carol said...

Let us therefore do our best to live but one day at a time. And sometimes even one minute at a time! May obdurate be a word that is fun to say, but doesn't apply to our ways....

tothetune said...

Very interesting, Dan! Theology is also obdurate, right? And we often hear that Jesus (or God) is past-present-future. Which I suppose is true (in someway that we finite beings can imagine but not really grasp at all). But not very helpful existentially. We each live ... (or die) ... in this moment only. And if we let ourselves get distracted -- even by the idea of Christ behind us or beyond us, we forget that the only Christ that really matters is the one we have access to right now: alongside us. In this moment. And this Christ, right now, is always enough. Abundantly so. Thanks for a good piece!

Djibouti Jones said...

I love this post. And I love that I learned a new word. Thanks for the reminder to focus on one day at a time.