In a recent post on prayer pitfalls I shared that sometimes I fail to plan for changed behavior around sins I have confessed. That insight came to me several years ago while reflecting upon how to get out of sins I couldn’t seem to escape. Also, around that time I realized that repentance was a process and that if I missed parts of the process then I got stuck in certain sins. If you want to know more about that process then please read the post, The Process of Repenting. You may gain from that article some understanding of why you are stuck. In today’s post I want to offer additional thoughts on escaping sin from an unusual inspiration.
On my browser desktop I have a window that displays random Wikipedia how-to articles. I have seen how-to articles on everything from making your own laundry detergent to how to look busy on your job without really working too hard. I don’t recommend the latter. Recently, there was an article on how-to escape a mine field. Now, I don’t really anticipate needing to know how to do this anytime soon, but I am a sucker for wanting to know quirky facts, so I read the article. After reading it I felt like the suggestions held some great analogous wisdom for not having our lives blown apart by sin. You will get a lot more out of this article if you consider the tips and reflections questions relate to a particular sin in your life. So here are the tips on how-to escape a mine field with my take on them from a spiritual perspective.
1. Avoid minefields, mined areas, and areas with unexploded (UXO). In short, don’t be in the wrong place at the wrong time. Are their places you shouldn’t go, may be people you shouldn’t be around, in order that you might not sin? FYI–”UXO” is an acronym for UneXploded Ordinance. An unexploded ordinance is a shell that has been fired, but hasn’t gone off. Some sins are like that. The deed has been done, but the damage is on hold until something else happens. You don’t want to be around when it goes off.
2. Learn what mines in the area look like. Do you recognize when you are sinning? Reading God’s Word will attune your awareness so that you recognize when you are sinning.
3. Avoid picking up anything. Mines are often rigged like traps with something as bait. There are certain sins that have bait. Gossip is a good example. People drop a question or a line and will try to bait you into conversations about someone else. Don’t pick up the bait. Don’t take part in the conversation. Are there things that bait you into behaviors you shouldn’t be doing? What entices you to do the wrong thing or to make the wrong decision?
4. Look out for mines or detonation devices. In short, be aware. Do you regularly scrutinize your own behavior and or attitudes to see if they are in alignment with God’s will and God’s word? Also, are there things you know that trigger you to do the wrong thing? For example, sleep deprivation can lead to extremely poor decision making.
5. Call out a warning to companions if you suspect you are in the presence of mines or UXO. You may be aware that something is wrong before others are. If so, speak up. Sometimes it is as simple as saying, “I am uncomfortable with this.” Take for example gossip. Saying something like, “I don’t feel comfortable talking about Janet without her here. It’s not right.”, will end a gossip session in a hurry. Sometimes the other person doesn’t realize that what they are doing is wrong.
6. Stop immediately. The other day I heard someone say, “When you are in a hole, the first thing you do is stop digging.” They were talking about the economy, but the wisdom applies to so many other issues. When you realize that you are doing something wrong, stop moving forward in it. How do you continue to nudge forward? What would it take for you to stop now where you are with your sin?
7. Back track your way out of a mined area. Can you see how you started sinning? What led you to the place you are now? What specific steps did you take? Are some of these steps ones that you can undo? Can looking back, help you know how to safely exit?
8. Get help if you are unable to clearly see your footprints. If you don’t have any idea how you got where you are and are lost in it, get help. A wiser more mature Christian may be able to offer you perspective or support that makes the difference between remaining stuck or safely coming back home to God. Both a mentor and being part of a small group of believers are invaluable components to a life of discipleship. We particularly need these people when we are hurting from or lost in sin.
9. Pay attention for signs that a detonation may occur. Are there warning signs that you are getting spiritually out of control? For example, I know that when my sleep is repeatedly disrupted, fast food bags are stacking up in my car, or simple tasks aren’t getting done, then I am in a messed up place. If you see signs that your life is getting unmanageable in some way, it’s probably a sign that you are spiritually not grounded in some way. What are your warning signs?
10. Drop to the ground immediately if you think a detonation has been initiated. Once you have sinned, you may be able to take evasive action to limit the pain and harm that is done. For example, in recovery ministry we use to teach people that as soon as they realized that they harmed someone, they need to make amends immediately. Sin that goes unaddressed can fester. A harm done to someone unacknowledged can quickly become a broken relationship.
11. Mark the hazard, and report its location to the proper authorities. One thing we fail to do with one another is share our stories of failure. All too often we hide the habits and hurts we have. If we are willing to risk sharing our stories, it often times will lead others to get the help they need. A couple of years ago, I was a guest preacher in a church and shared my struggle with depression. I shared how God brought me through that time. I shared how a small group I was involved with played an important role. One woman attending felt that her husband, might benefit from the group I was in. She directed him to it. He and I became great friends and have helped one another repeatedly since that time. Participation in that group made significant life changes possible for this man. It began with me being willing to speak up. Is there a hazard you need to report, so that others are not harmed? How could you share your struggle in a way that could help someone else?
Blessings to you as you seek to escape sin and embrace greater depths of discipleship.