My Two Lives
1 Corinthians 15:42-44 What is sown is perishable; what is raised is imperishable… It is sown a natural body; it is raised a spiritual body. If there is a natural body, there is also a spiritual body.
Growing up, I sang a children’s church song which used bullfrogs and butterflies as a metaphor for the Christian life. Just as the tadpole and caterpillar underwent a single point of radical transformation, so too, was the Christian to be radically transformed in coming to know Christ. Though I started out as a worm, in knowing God, I was meant to fly.
Later, when I began to struggle with lust, pride, food and all the other desires of my flesh nature, I became frustrated. I thought I was transformed. If I am a butterfly, why do I still feel like a worm? I thought something was wrong with just me. I was supposed to be made new but I still pursued the desires of my old nature.
Much later, when I went to treatment for my addiction to pills, I experienced this identity crisis all over again. Who am I? Christians cannot struggle like this, right? I am supposed to be a new creature in Christ (2 Cor. 5:17). Why am I such a mess?
In an effort to understand, I read and reread the New Testament. This passage was one of those that helped me to understand my condition as a Christian who still struggles. In the passage, Paul spoke of the afterlife. He insisted that to become perfect, our physical bodies (flesh), like a seed, must eventually die so we may be remade.
Paul spoke of our two lives. He said we are flesh and we are spirit. Though we are born again into a new spirit life when we come to know God, our flesh (and flesh nature) is not made perfect. It is in our spirit life that we can begin to know eternity, glory, perfection and power. As we still live in the flesh though, we remain familiar with decay, dishonor and weakness.
One day, the flesh and its corrupt nature will go to the grave at which point we will be transformed like the butterfly. For now, though, we are as a caterpillar with the spirit of the butterfly in us. Though we carry the perfect spirit of God, we carry it in this imperfect flesh.
Am I doomed then to live as a worm, enslaved to the defects of this flesh life? No, Christ died so that I may know God in me, so that I may live free from slavery to myself (Gal. 5:1). Though I still live under the influence of the flesh life, because I now have the alternative of the spirit life, I no longer need to live in flesh-addiction. This however, is not an automatic process. Both Jesus and Paul insisted that we must spend the rest of our lives abandoning the flesh life so that we may walk in the spirit life.
We are like the want-to-be athlete who longs to know the transformation that years of training will bring but who also wants the immediate pleasure of a donut right now. Because of Christ, we have the option of pursuing our spirit life, but it does not happen on its own. We must daily choose to forego the donuts of the flesh so that we may know the long-term joy of walking in the spirit.
This is my daily responsibility then: I am to daily do whatever it takes to live, not according to my flesh life, but according to my spirit life. For now, I may be stuck in the worm’s body, but because of Christ in me, I do not have to live like it.