Pastor Nathan told us a story about how he loved to fish when he was a little boy, about ten or eleven. He loved it so much, and he thought, “If I could just get out farther, then I could really catch something.” So his mama bought him some wading boots. With the waders on, he could get a whole foot or two deeper in the water, but he still had to be careful because of the way the sides drooped down and would let water in. He was so excited, and he fearlessly waded out into the water… then he felt himself sinking into the mud at the bottom. He tried to move, but the boots were held in place by the mud that was sucking them down. He couldn’t get them to budge. He quickly realized that the only way to get loose was to leave the boots behind. He had to come up out of them in order to be free.
It’s a lot like sin, don’t you think? We convince ourselves we can get a little bit closer, get in just a little bit deeper, mistakenly thinking we have the power to pull ourselves out when things start to get a little dangerous. We think it’s OK to get in up to our ankles, then we’ll go to our knees, then maybe even our waists. But we won’t get in all the way, and we won’t do it without a little bit of protection. We put on the illusion of safety. We tell a friend to hold us accountable, or we ask someone at church to pray for us. But we don’t stay out of the water. Oftentimes, we find ourselves going in just a little bit further. One more inch… one more… there! We’re still OK. We can still see the shore. Forget all the dangers that might lurk in the waters, we’re focused on the surface, on ourselves, on how far we can push it. We urge a friend to tell us all the details of a situation, feigning concern, then we gossip to another friend under the guise of a prayer request. We might start with a simple conversation, then become friends with someone we see at work or around town, then think, well, it wouldn’t hurt to text them. And before you know it, the harmless flirtation has serious repercussions on a marriage, and on the kids, and on everyone involved. We think, I’ve had a hard day, so we pour ourselves a drink to help us sleep. Then maybe two, and maybe three the next night. Before we know it, moderation is a thing of the past. The thing we thought we could control is controlling us.
I’m strong, I’m a Christian, I’m walking right with God, we say. We think that God winks at our mishaps, fondly shaking His head at all the times we mess up. We pray, genuinely repentant, on Sunday mornings, and then go home and make excuses for ourselves all week long. But our God, while forgiving and gracious and merciful, is first and foremost holy. All the un-holy things we do put a wedge between us and Him. Instead of inching closer to sin, we should be inching closer to God, before the current gets too strong, and the mud too deep, and we find that we’re stuck. We need to come up out of the sin that entangles us and let it go. It’s OK to leave it behind. When we are truly walking with God, that’s where sin belongs. Behind us.