Why is it that when somebody tells us we “can’t” do something, that becomes the very thing we want to do?
Like, I didn’t even know what “quahogging” was, but when I saw this sign near the water in Martha’s Vineyard, I found myself inexplicably eager to try it. Was it a forbidden dance move? A locals-only term for shacking up on the beach? Something having to do with a boat?
As it turns out (and maybe I am the only person who didn’t already know), a quahog is just a fancy name for a clam, and when you put it that way – “No Clamming” – it doesn’t sound nearly as illicit or adventurous. But still. Quahogs or clams, what’s the allure?
Bible brainiac Warren Weirsbe says, in his commentary on Romans, “Something in human nature wants to rebel whenever a law is given.” No kidding. Truth be told, though, resisting the call of the quahog isn’t really my biggest problem. For me, it’s more about things like letting worry steal my joy. Or coveting my neighbor’s shoes. Or, when Robbie is out of town, pairing a batch of chocolate chip cookies with a nice chardonnay and calling it Dinner.
I know all of these things are bad and, time and again, I resolve not to do them. But at the end of the day, I am no different from the Apostle Paul. He’s the guy who wrote to the Romans and confessed, “I want to do what is right, but I can’t. I want to do what is good, but I don’t. I don’t want to do what is wrong, but I do it anyway.“
And, every time I blow it – every time my ears perk up at a choice bit of gossip, or I let loose with some sarcastic remark that isn’t nearly as funny coming out of my mouth as it was in my head – I find myself echoing Paul’s despair: “What a miserable person I am! Who will free me from this life that is dominated by sin and death?”
I’d be sunk, except for the fact that Paul solves his own riddle: “Thank God!” he writes. “The answer is in Jesus Christ our Lord.”
The answer, in other words, is that we can’t save ourselves. I can’t even get rid of my bad habits – how much more would I fail at cleaning up my act enough to warrant a ticket to heaven? But, thanks be to God, the same Lord who covered my capital-S Sin Problem can also be counted on to conquer my daily challenges, those oops-I-did-it-again moments when I look at God and say, “Ugh. I can’t do it. I stink.” and he says, “It’s okay. I’ll help you. I love you.”
If you’re like me and you find yourself making the same mistakes over and over again, doing the things you know, deep down, that you really don’t want to do, don’t beat yourself up. Instead, admit your weaknesses and failings to God – and ask him to help you. And then read the next part of Paul’s letter: “There is no condemnation for those who belong to Christ Jesus…nothing in all creation will ever be able to separate us from the love of God.”
(Even if we sometimes accidentally go quahogging.)
Scripture quotations in this post are from Romans 7:18-25 and 8:1 & 39, NLT