I saw something the other day that so caught my attention I had to be careful not to stare. I was visiting one of the local state parks when I saw an elderly man in a wheelchair. When I first saw him from the back I noticed a small oxygen tank attached to the side of the wheelchair. That’s nothing unusual; I’ve known plenty of people who needed regular oxygen and were still mobile. I was glad to see that this fellow was able to be out enjoying the day in spite of an obvious health issue.
But as I walked past him and his face came into the periphery of my vision I could not help but notice the cigarrete dangling precariously from his lips. That’s right. He had an oxygen line in both nostrils and a lit Camel in his mouth!
A couple of thoughts came to mind. The first was to run. Pure oxygen is explosive. I wasn’t all that excited about hanging around in the event that his oxygen tank suddenly become a rocket pack!
My second (and more reflective) thought was to note how often we become our own worst enemies. Obviously, you are not going to be on oxygen unless you have some kind of respiratory problem, and yet smoking is clearly known to contribute to respiratory problems. This gentleman wasn’t exactly helping his own cause.
The truth is that none of us do, even if we’ve never smoked. We are our own worst enemies. There may be all sorts of external circumstances that contribute to our struggles in life, but the biggest struggles we face are those we create through our own destructive thoughts and behaviors. The biblical word for this is sin, and we are all full of it.
In the New Testament book of Romans the Apostle Paul talks honestly about his own struggle with sin. He says (and I am paraphrasing) that he knows what he is supposed to do and what he is not supposed to do, but he also acknwoledges that there is a dark power at work in him that often leads him to do the opposite. “I do not understand what I do. For what I want to do I do not do, but what I hate I do. (Romans 7:15)”
If you and I are going to be the people God intends us to be we need more than just information and knowledge. For the most part we know what is good and right, but knowing alone is not enough. We something, someOne, who can set us free from the stranglehold of sin and empower us to actually do what is right.
I am happy to report that when we left the park that gentleman was still there; his wheelchair had not blasted into orbit. But the even better news is that there is a savior who can overcome even our greatest struggle – namely us!. As the Apostle Paul said at the close of Romans 7, “What a wretched man I am! Who will rescue me from this body of death? Thanks be to God – through Jesus Christ our Lord!”