In Dallas Willard’s “Renovation of the Heart” he makes reference to the relationship our body has with the rest of us.
Our choices, as they settle into character are “farmed out” or “outsourced” to our body in its social context, where they then occur more or less “automatically,” without our having to think about what we are doing.
And that is, in general, a very good thing. Just recall how cumbersome it is when we have to think about what we are doing – learning to skate, drive a car, speak a language. The very purpose of learning or training in some activity is to bring it under our direction without our having to think about it or make decisions regarding it. The body makes this possible. It has a “knowledge” of its own.
– Dallas Willard
I’ve never thought about it quite this way, but it makes perfect sense. Asking us to think back to learning new activities (roller skating, learning a language, or driving a car) and recall just how awkward those things felt during that process is a great point of connection with the way sanctification works.
I know I’ve prayed in serious and intense ways about purity and holiness being the patterns of my life, and I’ve understood the integral role of grace in those areas – the enabling power of grace in the process of sanctification is a grand promise – but I don’t know that
I’ve ever thought about this process in this way exactly. On a certain level, my daily prayers (including today) always include this gut-level desire to see my reactions to anything that I interact with in life to be reflexively holy. I have a great desire for my instincts to become pure, not just the decisions that I labor over and struggle with when I’m in the crucible. It struck me that driving became far less stressful (meaning I wasn’t constantly concerned about forgetting something or getting into an accident) after I’d been doing it for awhile, and now I don’t think anything about getting into the car and taking off. My instincts, my reflexes, the involuntary part of me, has changed.
I was challenged and humbled as I thought about all of the areas that I am still so awkward in. Some things, by grace, I do with the confidence of a lion; but other things I do with the bizarre and lumbering gate of a newborn giraffe. In the areas of the latter sort I am still having to consciously think through every decision, every choice, every word, etc… But I was encouraged that there will be a time when I will be sure on my feet.
At the beginning of some chapter of some book that I’ve read over the course of the last few years there was a quote that said if you are still watching your feet you are not dancing. That seems to dovetail with this idea nicely. We can, through training and dedication, move into places in life where our reactions are instinctively Christ-like. Sometimes, in our weakest areas, that may seem like a pipe-dream, a fairy-tale, a bag full of false hope, but I recall something else that would have been described that way, the resurrection. Never let us underestimate the God who looks at dead things and boldly says, “live”.