A moment that brought clarity and understanding in my life occurred as I was sitting in a seminar on counseling.
As a former staff pastor, the privilege of sharing life with our church members via pastoral counseling was something I did often. I was enrolled in that seminar to learn more and grow in my ability to help others, but what I learned in that instant did so much more. It changed the way I view my own life, heart and spiritual growth.
The instructor talked about “the gap” – the distance between what we say we believe and how we actually live our lives. The speaker went on to describe that each and every one of us have a core system that is the foundation to our lives, guiding the decisions we make. Simply stated, these are our “declared beliefs.”
Here’s the rub: Everyone suffers from “the gap.” Our “declared” belief is not always the same as our “functional” belief. What we say we believe, and how we actually live can be poles apart.
At least initially, I didn’t see the big deal. But as I honestly began to investigate my own habits, my own decisions, and my own inconsistencies, I began to get a clearer picture as to the wisdom that had just been imparted.
Part of what was so shocking to me in my evaluating my own “gaps” is how often I could see their evidence, and how many times I would allow myself freedoms that conflicted with my declared beliefs. Sometimes it would be in an area of my thought life, while other times it would be actual statement uttered, or an action taken. It was as if I had a whole new alert system.
We older Americans can remember the “Lost in Space” robot, the one that would flail his arms wildly saying, “Warning, warning, danger…” In a way, that is what began to happen in my heart, as my eyes were beginning to open.
The Holy Spirit was right there, helping me to recognize that I was about to walk into the gap zone, between what I “say” I believe, and my “functional” response to temptation. The really great news is this: God will help us to identify and overcome these areas of weakness.
Paul gave the Corinthians great hope and encouragement with these words:
“For the weapons of our warfare are not of the flesh but have divine power to destroy strongholds. We destroy arguments and every lofty opinion raised against the knowledge of God, and take every thought captive to obey Christ.” 2 Corinthians 10:4-5
We all have these gaps. And God has given us both grace and ability to not only see them, but to narrow their frequency and hold in our lives. We can grow, and we can change. While we won’t ever be completely free of their presence this side of heaven, we can be much freer than we have been.