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  • July 11, 2014 - Reflections

    By Jean S. Horner
    The other day while walking down a corridor in a public building, I saw what appeared to be someone walking toward me. On coming closer, I found it was my own reflection in a huge mirror. For a moment it frightened me. Somehow a full-length reflection of one’s self is a startling thing. ...


 

Daily Boost

Feb. 16, 2011 - Sisyphus’ Shovel

By Scott Harrup

If the name Sisyphus doesn’t ring a bell, he was a king in Greek mythology condemned to roll an immense boulder up a hill for eternity as punishment for his pride and other misdeeds. Every time he approached the summit, the boulder would roll away from him back down the hill. It was pointless, unending toil.

I thought of Sisyphus as I shoveled about 10 inches of snow off my driveway week before last. (I’m ignoring howls of derisive laughter from anyone living nearer the Canadian border for whom 10 inches of snow is a “light fall dusting.”)

A couple of hours were needed just to chip off the crusted ice from the first wave of sleet. I got that job done just as the snow began to blow in. Every few hours on Tuesday, I’d wander back out and push the next few inches off the concrete. By the end of the day, the bigger challenge was throwing the shovelfuls of snow up onto the mound stretching from street to house at near-mailbox height.

The final indignity came as a mixed blessing on Wednesday. I’d used the morning to dig out the end of the driveway into the street where the snow was thickest and heaviest. An hour or so after I thought I was done, a snowplow drove through and, voila, a wall of ice and snow stretched the width of the drive. I was back at it a final time.

Unlike Sisyphus, I knew my task had a purpose and an end in sight. But I think of another task I undertake in utter futility — being a good person. My every errant thought, word and misdeed carries with it a moral debt, a stain on my soul. And just the time I attempt to undo one mistake by balancing it out with some random kindness, another sin pops up on the driveway of my life. I can shovel all I want to and never make any progress.

But even here, as I consider the story of Sisyphus, I discover another connection, this one more helpful. In legend, Sisyphus was the founder and first king of Corinth. Christians in that city later became the recipients of two epistles from the very unmythical apostle Paul.

In both epistles, Paul offers wonderful insights into the whole issue of living a truly good life and overcoming personal failure. Paul’s repeated point is this: No one can live a godly life in his own strength. Failure is inevitable. But when God enters the picture, He empowers godly living.

“No temptation has seized you except what is common to man. And God is faithful; he will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear. But when you are tempted, he will also provide a way out so that you can stand up under it” (1 Corinthians 10:13, NIV).

God sent Jesus Christ to make possible for each of us that escape path from sin. “God made him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God” (2 Corinthians 5:21).

Learning from Paul’s own experience, I know I can rely on God’s empowerment even when I’m at my weakest.

“But he said to me, ‘My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.’ Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me” (2 Corinthians 12:9).

Paul was well versed in the classical literature of his day and determined to culturally connect with the Gentiles in order to communicate the gospel. It was to the Corinthians that he wrote, “I have become all things to all men so that by all possible means I might save some” (1 Corinthians 9:22). I’m sure the apostle knew the story of Corinth’s first king far better than I do.

And I’m pretty sure he’d agree, eternally pushing a boulder up a hill is as good a picture as any of trying to come to God on my own merit. Thank God, there’s another hill rooted in history where my moral debt was forever paid. A cross on Calvary shattered the boulder of sin I once was forced to shoulder.

— Scott Harrup is managing editor of the Pentecostal Evangel and blogs at Out There (sharrup.agblogger.org).

 

 

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