Sin Is Subjectivity (Part One)
A couple of nights ago, my daughter woke up screaming in the middle of the night. She's a toddler - these things happen. But as I rolled out of bed to go to her room and comfort her, I realized that I could see in the darkness of my bedroom just fine. I had actually been awake for a while, and my eyes had already adjusted to the darkness. I could see the corner of my bed and the standing fan, and easily slid my way between them, around the footboard, over one, two, three huge dogs, out the door and into the hallway. Sometimes, when you first enter into darkness, you have to keep your hand along one wall to guide you. You trace it with your fingers so you know where you are in the space. But I didn't have to do that. Because once you get comfortable in the absence of light, you feel confident about your position in it. You can take corners at speed, dodge that bedside table that sticks out a little farther than you like, or dance down the hallway. A couple of days later I had the opportunity to explain to someone how repetitive sin affects our lives, and I was suddenly blindsided by the image of myself navigating the darkness a few nights before. Because, the thing is, this is exactly what sin does to us, left to its own devices.
Sin is subjectivity. It's an Instagram filter between our minds and hearts and the world around us. It manipulates and shapes our every perception, evaluation, and opinion. And the longer we spend having our worldviews and experiences manipulated by the perpetual darkness of sin, the more we begin to forget what the world looks like in the light. Sometimes, we can even become emboldened by sin. We challenge ourselves to go to deeper, darker places, confident in our ability to navigate the darkness. We convince ourselves that our spouses, fiancés, and partners won't mind being treated this way or that way, because we understand the truth of those relationships. We're not hurting anyone, because what they don't know can't hurt them.
This effect is particularly powerful when sin is coupled with addiction. In the face of this combination, a sinful person is now being manipulated on two fronts: spiritual and neurological. For the believer, our God-given ability to look at His creation and see the way He values it is broken and muddied by our sin, and our will to fight the darkness back is weakened and beaten by our bodies and brains, which cry out for more and more of that sin. This is true irrespective of the addiction of choice: drugs, porn, alcohol, sex, food, technology - anything that human beings have found a way to overuse and misuse that can also numb our pain can become a powerful addiction, where chemicals in the brain now support and encourage the ongoing death of our spiritual sensitivity in the darkness of sin.
To make matters worse, sin and addiction also make the light a scary, shame-filled place to be avoided at any cost. When our spouses or partners are in our presence, we are constantly reminded of our sin, and the way it would hurt them if only they knew. Hopefully, in a relationship where your partner desires what's best for you (read: God's will for you), they represent to you the Spirit of God that is still within you. And that reminder is crushing and painful, and it can make us feel like our only recourse is to retreat deeper and deeper into the dark cave of whatever sin we're in.
If you're a movie nerd like me, you may appreciate the illustration below. It's from Lord of the Rings: Return of the King. The character Sméagol tells the story of how, after all his time spent in the darkness, he eventually becomes Gollum. It's a dark tale, but worth watching...
Smeagol's story, unfortunately, mirrors what happens to our souls, and sometimes even our bodies, when we remain in darkness. But there's an important difference between believers in the darkness of sin and Smeagol (you know - besides the fact that Smeagol is all, fictional and stuff). And in that difference lies the good news.
Sin is subjectivity. As Morpheus says to Neo in the Matrix, it's "the world that has been pulled over your eyes to blind you from the truth." But if it is subjectivity, a literal veil that obscures our vision of the truth, then that means two things for the believer:
There is truth to be seen.
There is a means to see it.
I can't stress enough how much hope there is in these two statements, both for those of us who find ourselves in the darkness of sin and for our loved ones in relationship with us. The Spirit within us calls out to the truth, to the objectivity, to the light. Its greatest desire is to work with our contrite hearts to eradicate the darkness and step back into the light. Admittedly, this can be a long and difficult process. The light feels foreign to those who are in darkness. Its brightness is blinding, its warmth scalding, and its objectivity shattering. The cozy lie that the world of darkness built around us is obliterated when our minds are renewed by light. But when we cooperate with this process, we find that we see the world for what it truly is. We see our partners as the Father sees them, having the worth at which the Son purchased them, ambassadors of the glory of the Spirit which is at work within them. And though we may feel shame at our treatment of them, the Spirit is at work within us, too, and we can overcome shame through humility, reconciliation, and patience.
The light of God illuminates the truth of everything. It shows us our loved ones, ourselves, and the Godhead. In future posts, we'll discuss practical ways that people can overcome darkness and step into the light, and practical ways that partners and spouses can support their loved ones in this. As always, feel free to reach out to us if you feel like you and/or your partner could use some support. For now, we offer this hope: