The beloved Disney movie, The Lion King, begins with a song we all have known since childhood: “It’s the circle of life, and it moves us all through despair and hope, through faith and love…” As children, it was only a fun song to sing at the top of our lungs while African animals cheered and knelt before a cute newborn lion cub; but now, I reflect on its meaning and find its more personal, perhaps unintended, truth. Life is a circle, one of repetitive patterns we live over and over again.
Yet I find it not such an exalted circle as the song indicates. The longer I live, the more I see that my life’s circle is characterized mostly by selfishness and sin. Sure, there are good parts to it, but every time I reach the top of that circle, sooner or later I slide right back into the mud at the bottom. Paul seems to summarize my life in Romans 7:15, 24-25 when he writes, “I do not understand what I do. For what I want to do I do not do, but what I hate I do…What a wretched man am I! Who will rescue me from this body of death?”
I think his exclamation of despair echoes still in our hearts. For the past month, it was certainly true for me. I hardly know where it began, but before I knew it, I had distanced myself from God. In my heart, I still wanted more than anything to follow Jesus and change the world for His glory; but in reality, I was sinking down into lethargy, unsure of how to get out, not knowing what was stopping me from breaking out of this wretched cycle.
“Who will rescue me from this body of death? Thanks be to God–through Jesus Christ our Lord!”
Finally there came a time of musical worship. We sang “Only You Can Satisfy,” and at last God opened my eyes in one of those sometimes-rare moments of lucidity. “To life for Christ, I first must die to all the rivals in my life.”
When we find ourselves far from God, not living for Him, something is wrong. Sometimes it is an obvious sin, sometimes it takes longer to figure out what it is. But the core of the matter is that we’ve allowed rivals into our lives. So right then, I wrote a list, “The Rivals in My Life.” And there it was, on that one slip of paper: the worst of my life, the darkest part of me. Oh, what a wretched woman am I!
Yet thanks be to God–through Jesus Christ our Lord! He stood before my failures, before that paper of my life’s rivals, carried the cross for my shame with my sin weighing down upon His shoulders, that my soul, which had curled into a ball under its weight, might stand. Stand before God with confidence, clothed in grace and love. Stand firm against the devil’s schemes until the end.
So what could I say or do but offer my heart completely to Him? I tore up the rivals in my life, and each rip brought life as I surrendered the burden to He who can carry it, and I released the shreds into the trash, released them from my soul. They are forsaken, for nothing among them can match my Abba’s love.
Such a simple gesture. Yet finally, I am free. Free to live for Christ, to stand before Him with arms high and heart abandoned in worship to Him.
Are you caught in the bottom of the circle of your life? There is hope–you can be free. Jesus is waiting for us to throw away the rivals in our lives, waiting to run to us and sweep us into His arms and draw us closer than we’ve ever been.
Praise be to God–through Jesus Christ our Lord!