Last week, on our commute into the city, my husband and I spent that sliver of quality time together by listening to a podcast about zombie parasites.
Yes, you read that right. Romance is different for everyone, ok?
As we listened to the story of the fungus that overtakes the bodies of ants and makes them a slave to its desire, I couldn’t help but think about the most obvious picture that God is trying to show us in these tiny creatures.
Sin wants to own you. Sin doesn’t like to die, but it has no problem killing you. Sin will make it look like you, but that is not the real you. Not the fully alive, true you that God intends for you to be.
It’s ironic that most of the time when someone is caught in sin, myself included, a familiar refrain is to say “This is the real me. This is who I really am. I’m finally being honest with myself and the world about who I am.” And yet, that couldn’t be further from the truth. Sin is a parasite and it will feed on your desires, fantasies, nature, thoughts, and actions until you are just a shell of the person you were meant to be. Sin doesn’t make you more real. Sin makes you more dead.
I know what this feels like. When sin that lives inside of me is met by the hands of the Creator who intends to uproot, sever, or suffocate it, I find my physical body reacting to the work. Oh, that sin issue that I thought was just in one area is everywhere, wrapping itself around everything in which I live and move and have my being? You’re going to address that? *nervous laughter* Yeah, that’s fine.
Last summer, when an article I wrote made a lot of people angry, I found the people-pleasing desire within me bubbling to the surface. The idol I’ve worshipped for years to make everyone happy, never rock the boat, keep peace at all costs, don’t let the Gospel or truth get in the way of a good relationship, say what people want you to say and for heaven’s sake, don’t confront them on anything, this idol squirmed inside of me. As each comment or tag came in to attack my character, me as a person, my heart behind the words, I found the idol of “praise of men” within me begging for food.
Feed me praise, it would ask.
No, I’d say.
Feed me the love of people, it gasped.
No, I can’t do that today, I’d whisper by night.
Tell them that you don’t mean any of it and you just want them to like you, it screamed under the hand of suffocation.
No, I cried. You don’t get to call the shots anymore.
My idol of affirmation, of the praise of men, of people-pleasing, felt like it was literally dying within me. My skin crawled, my heart raced, my sleep disrupted because there was a parasite inside of me who wanted to eat, to breathe, to survive but the gracious hand of my Creator (and husband and pastors) said, “It’s time for this to die.”
“Sin isn’t the whole truth about you,” I told a friend whose sin has erupted in her world. Personal private choices are now public and disrupting her home, her family, her peace. It would be tempting for her to think that sin is who she is. Clearly, she did those things. She made those choices. All of the words and accusations point to her. “You are more alive than the sin that lives in you,” I said. She said she couldn’t stop shaking, that she felt like something inside of her was dying, that she was suffocating while breathing.
The parasite. It’s hungry. And you’ve removed its food source. You’ve taken away its oxygen.
Sin may live in our nature, but we are stepping into a real world. Christ calls us to live for him and die to the rest of it. When we breathe our first breath out of the darkness and into the light of real sight, real kingdom, real living, the tendrils of sin that snake around our heart, mind, and soul, begin to singe under the brightness. As the work of real change happens, slowly, over time we’ll be witnesses and active participants in the death of those snake-like parasitic entrapments. But it might pull at our lungs. It might keep us awake. It might make our hands shake.
When the zombie fungus takes over the ant, it makes the ant climb to a certain height of a plant and lock its jaw on the underside of the leaf, hanging above other ant colonies. This is where the ant will fully die, in the shell of something that appears alive, and thus allowing the spores to drop on the colony below where it will find new hosts. Sin doesn’t love its host. It just finds a new one.
Don’t die before you die. By the mercy of God, “Put to death therefore what is earthly in you…” (Colossians 3:5) so that you can truly live.