"We all know what it feels like to be prompted by instinct--by mother love, or sexual instinct, or the instinct for food. It means that you feel a strong want or desire to act in a certain way. And, of course, we sometimes do feel just that sort of desire to help another person: and no doubt that desire is due to the herd instinct. But feeling a desire to help is quite different from feeling that you ought to help whether you want to or not." Mere Christianity
There are certain things which come naturally to me. Lewis mentions three of them: protecting my children, having sex and eating!
First of all, there is my parental instinct. It is amazing how my life changed once I became a father. The moment my wife told me she was pregnant with our first child I began to re-orient my life around providing for that child. I had this overwhelming, gut-level sense of responsibility. If anything or anyone threatened my children at any time I'm sure I would do my very best to defend my children and ward off any threat.
But my parental instinct doesn't keep me from being selfish. For instance, while I was writing this blog one of my sons came in the room and started talking to me. I told him that I was working and needed to be left alone. I had MY thing to do--and that thing came first!
Then there is my sexual instinct. This instinct has led to certain good things . . . three of them currently live in my house, and they are ages 13, 11 and 7. But if I gave this instinct its head I could probably populate whole villages . . . or become totally absorbed in myself . . . or become obsessed with the sexual aspects of the human body. Obviously this is an instinct which must be reigned in, hemmed around on all sides, channeled in the right direction.
Thirdly there is my instinct to eat. Like the other two instincts this one can lead to good; it has preserved my life for one thing. But my problem is eating in moderation. I have struggled with this my whole life, sometimes winning, often times desperately losing.
The interesting thing about the Moral Law, which I know I should obey, is that its goals are so far beyond what any of these instincts would lead me to do. Channeled in the right way, held in check at times, these instincts can help me to achieve some of the Law. But more often than not these instincts lead me to live in conflict with the Law. And there are some things my instincts would never lead me to do . . . like loving God with all my heart, mind, soul and strength.
The situation is as the Lord says in Isaiah 55:8-9,
"For my thoughts are not your thoughts,
neither are your ways my ways," declares the Lord.
"As the heavens are higher than the earth,
so are my ways higher than your ways
and my thoughts than your thoughts."
The only way I can think God's thoughts and fully follow God's ways is to have the One who is the way, the truth and the life thinking and acting and living in and through me. And so my prayer is that of the hymn writer Kate Wilkinson:
May the mind of Christ, my Savior,
Live in me from day to day,
By His love and power controlling
All I do and say.
May the Word of God dwell richly
In my heart from hour to hour,
So that all may see I triumph
Only through His power.
May the peace of God my Father
Rule my life in everything,
That I may be calm to comfort
Sick and sorrowing.
May the love of Jesus fill me
As the waters fill the sea
Him exalting, self abasing--
This is victory.
May I run the race before me,
Strong and brave to face the foe,
Looking only unto Jesus
As I onward go.
May His beauty rest upon me
As I seek the lost to win;
And may they forget the channel,
Seeing only Him.