A few years ago, This American Life told the story about a young man in California. He was a straight-laced, rule-following kid who was a Mormon and sang in the church choir. However, beneath the surface of this good kid lurked the most prolific burglar in the history of San Francisco. He robbed 63 stores within 2 months.
At night he would sneak out under the cover of darkness and discovered an extraordinary skill. He could climb through sky lights and air vents. He was able to shimmy into small spaces and slither his way through buildings. At one point he jumped 10 feet across one building to the next.
Why would a good kid place himself in these risky situations?
He did it because he had a bad gambling addiction none of his friends or family knew about. He started by “borrowing” $200 from the store he worked at. He figured he would gamble with this “loan” and then repay the store the next morning before anyone figured it out. However, he immediately lost in the casino.
That night he decided to drop 10 feet from the sky light into a neighboring restaurant in order to steal $5,500. Still being a good kid, he gave back the $200 he had taken from his place of business. Then he figured he could take the $5,300 go to the casino, double it and not have to gamble again. But of course…his plan unraveled. And he ended up needing to rob every night so he could spend his days gambling.
Ultimately, the young man got caught. His daring escapes and amazing climbing skills had made him infamous among the local police. So one day, while in jail, the officers had taken him into the corner of the gym to climb a 2-story rope they had installed. They had wanted to see this young man’s skill.
As he stood there looking up, he thought to himself that this was nothing. He had gotten into the best shape of his life doing all these capers, so climbing a rope would be simple. But, as he grabbed the rope and tried to climb it he could not. He could barely get himself off the ground. It was the strangest thing to him.
Ultimately, though he realized the only reason he could climb and jump and do all that he did was out of pure desperation. Desperation had caused him to go down paths that are irreversible. To make minor mistakes that continue to build and entrap us. Desperation causes us to hide in the shadows.
When we have surrendered ourselves to Christ, suddenly our desperation is gone. We no longer have to live desperate lives.
You were taught, with regard to your former way of life, to put off your old self, which is being corrupted by its deceitful desires to be made new in the attitude of your minds, and to put on the new self, created to be like God in true righteousness and holiness.
Do not let any unwholesome talk come out your mouths, but only what is helpful for the building up of others according to their needs that it may benefit those who listen.
- When have you felt desperate? How do you respond? With anger, vengeance? Do you withdraw?
- In your desperation, what do you seek after instead of God?
- Are you more likely to speak words that build up or tear down others? Why?
- Why do we want some sins (murder, adultery, robbery) to be more deadly then others? How are anger, unwholesome talk, bitterness, rage just as deadly?
- (Silently confess the secrets that hold you back) If bold, what are some ways your old self lived? Have you ever seen someone “made new?” What would it feel like for you to be made new?