On a beautiful Saturday morning eight years ago, Mr. Odell came to clean out our septic tank. Now I know many of us have them, but most of us don't discuss them, particularly at church on a Sunday morning. I did just that. Here is what I shared.
When the big septic tank truck roared up our driveway my youngest children, Anthony, age seven, and Connor age four, hurried out to see what was happening. The truck with its huge hoses was far more interesting than any Saturday morning cartoon. Even better, the man driving the truck had a shovel and was looking for a good spot to dig. The boys were excited. They were under the mistaken impression that a treasure was going to be found right in our front yard!
Mr. Odell has known Pat and I for years and so we chatted while he was digging. Connor was yanking on me, climbing me and being his usual charming self. Anthony however, was full of questions. "What are you doing? Why are you digging? What will you find?"
Mr. Odell patiently explained that the truck was a "poopy truck." He continued digging and explained the general process of toilets, pipes, and septic tanks. Anthony's eyes got bigger and bigger with disbelief. He thought Mr. Odell was telling him a funny story with some bathroom humor. Mom certainly didn't tell stories as good as this. He moved closer. Mr. Odell was clearing the dirt away from a round door hatch with a small handle. Anthony was thrilled, clearly Mr. Odell had found something. Mr. Odell lifted the hatch and tossed it aside. I took a firm hold of Connor so he wouldn't go for a swim.
Anthony crept even closer for a look. Sure enough there was something down there. Anthony peeked in the tank, gasped, and jumped back. He was overcome and appalled. He was looking at two years and a family of eight worth of yuck. Anthony peered up, his brown eyes huge, and solemnly said, "Mommy, I will NEVER poop again!"
Mr. Odell and I laughed as Anthony, full of impossible good intentions, ran into the house and closed the door.
This reminded me of a passage in Romans written by Paul.
I do not understand what I do. For what I want to do I do not do, but what I hate I do. And if I do what I do not want to do, I agree that the law is good. As it is, it is no longer I myself who do it, but it is the sin living in me. I know that nothing good lives in me, for I have the desire to do what is good, but I cannot carry it out. For what I do is not the good I want to do; no, the evil I do not want to do, this I keep on doing. Now if I do what I do not want to do, it is no longer I who do it, but is sin living in me that does it.We all know what it is like to have good intentions, to set our minds and hearts on accomplishing some task. We make great plans; to eat a healthier diet, to start an exercise program, get up when the alarm rings, get to places on time, to somehow be good enough.
So I find this law at work: When I want to do good, evil is right there with me. For in my inner being I delight in God's law; but I see another law at work in the members of my body, waging war against the law of my mind and making me a prisoner of the law of sin at work within my members. What a wretched man I am! Who will rescue me from this body of death? ~Romans 7:15-25
In our minds, we say, "This time I'm really going to get it together." But then we eat the donuts, the exercise bike sits alone in a corner, we hit the snooze button, and we are running late everywhere we go. Some of us feel that we should clean ourselves up before we come to God or even deepen our relationship with Him. Like Paul and Anthony, we want to do good, but we don't.
Fortunately, it is not what we do that saves us. It is what Jesus has already done. Jesus has done all that needs to be done for our forgiveness. He has paid the price for our sins. Nothing we will ever do will add to our salvation.
Who will rescue me from this body of death?
Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus, because through Christ Jesus the law of the Spirit of life set me free from the law of sin and death. ~Romans 8:1-2