Clinging to the Cancer
If your eye causes you to sin, tear it out. It is better for you to enter the kingdom of God with one eye than with two eyes to be thrown into hell . . . Mark 9:47
When I was a child, I read a story about monkeys in a zoo that left a lasting impression on me. In the story, the door to the monkey’s barred enclosure magically opened one day. Knowing they only had moments before the zoo staff closed the door again, the monkeys bolted for freedom. As they were fleeing, one looked back at an apple through the bars. He wanted that apple, so he reached back through the bars and grabbed it. With his fingers around the apple though, he couldn’t get his hand out. He was stuck. Let it go! All the other monkeys screamed. He couldn’t let go. He wanted freedom, but wanted the apple too. The other monkeys escaped, but the monkey with the apple was easily captured as he just couldn’t let go.
This has been my life. Even though I understood the moral of the story as a child, it didn’t save me from repeatedly engaging in the same mistake as the monkey. My drug addiction has just been the most obvious manifestation of this. In it, I wanted recovery and life, but I remained unwilling to do what it took to abandon the drug.
I wrote yesterday of hating the cancer, which is what destructive behavior is to our spiritual lives. Sin spreads its tendrils into us, clinging to us, but we cling to it as well. Initially, we engage in destructive behavior because we like it. Repeated instant gratification leads to a rewiring of our brain though, and soon, we’re owned by the behavior. We’re no longer in control. The drug, pornography, anger, money, food, or pride is in control.
For a third time in today’s passage, Jesus insisted that if something is causing us destruction, we must violently cut it out of our lives. He spoke of a hand, foot, and eye to illustrate how these things have become part of us and to make it clear how difficult this process is. Abandoning our destructive behavior may be the hardest thing we ever do in this life. If we truly want to know life and freedom though, we must daily commit to doing whatever it takes to cut out the cancer, pursuing life, faith, and recovery.