You were taught, with regard to your former way of life, to put off your old self, which is being corrupted by its deceitful desires; to be made new in the attitude of your minds; and to put on the new self, created to be like God in true righteousness and holiness. Ephesians 4: 23-24
I have a strange love of cemeteries. There's one in Percy Warner Park I stumbled upon in college where I used to sit and read, perched on the wall under a tree near a man named Larken. I always wanted to name a child that, but Emmett was a little horrified that I would fall in love with a name on a gravestone. No idea why he felt that way. I popped into the Christ Church Burial Ground in historic Philadelphia (pictured above) on my trip there last week. Ben Franklin and four other signers of the Declaration of Independence are buried there. American revolutionary history always makes me a little teary eyed and patriotic.
I had more time than expected to wander historic Philadelphia, and I was struck by how well the city had recreated history through exhibits, museums, storytellers, and actors. One particular exhibit at the National Constitution Center focused on slavery at Jefferson's Monticello, talking about the paradox of freedom in the life of the author of the Declaration of Independence. Upstairs from this exhibit is a round room noting the history of the Constitution and its many changes, including the 13th amendment that ended slavery, but what I'd never considered before was how complex and lengthy this transition was. Even before Jefferson, there was discussion of ending slavery, with the Quakers banning it as early as 1775, and numerous signers of the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution noted the irony in personal correspondence but were unable to reach a consensus to effect meaningful change, despite knowing what was right. The frustration of holding such a passionate desire for change in parallel with the powerlessness to effect such change resonated in my spirit. To know and despise my sinful nature yet be so powerless to put on the new self is my deepest grief.
This week I'm at Carnegie Melon working on educational robotics. Outside my door is the CMU CHIMP robot, part of a multi year robotics competition where students have to create a robot that can negotiate a series of tasks a human might encounter after a natural disaster. This team has created a humanoid like robot that can climb over rubble, open doors, turn valves. It's pretty amazing stuff, but if you've ever worked on robotics or computer programming, you know how painfully tedious the process can be. One misplaced semicolon, one wrong line of code, and instead of opening a door, your robot spins in circles. It can be maddeningly frustrating, and yet this team has been working on this guy for more than a year, patiently testing and retesting, writing and rewriting the code. Such an unassuming display of patience was both humbling an maddening.
In many ways I had the expectation that being a widow would be difficult, but being a widow is far less difficult than single parenting. Every once in a while I miss Emmett, but almost every day as a single parent brings me to the edge of crazy. This has been a hard year of parenting, with generational sins creeping into my parenting style, relentless work and school pressures causing tension, and bone wearying loneliness when disciplining Quinn. Traveling for work has offered me opportunities to rest, reflect, and pray, also probably saving Quinn from watching his mom experience a complete meltdown.
These moments of rest have helped me persevere, but they have also deeply convicted me of the stranglehold sin has on my life. Wandering alone through the streets of a strange town, I am hard pressed on all sides with the depth and power of my sinful nature and its devastating effects on the people around me. My spirit has been groaning so loudly as I wait eagerly for my adoption as a daughter of Christ, the redemption of my sinful flesh, that I sometimes wonder if other people can hear it. I'm reminded of John Owen's work, Overcoming Sin and Temptation, and his description of the long, arduous battle that will claim every second of my life until I am made new. I am reminded by history that the fight is long, but it is not eternal. There will be an end.
Not only so, but we also rejoice in our sufferings because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope. And hope does not disappoint us because God has poured out his love into our hearts by his Hoy Spirit, whom he has given us. Romans 5: 3-5