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24 Now those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires. 25 If we live by the Spirit, let us also keep in step with the Spirit. - Galatians 5:24-25 CSB     

“Ma, I can’t do it.”     

By this point, my heart rate had accelerated to the point of being audible in my own ears.     

I had been sitting in the driver’s seat of my mom’s car for a couple of hours. My mom was sitting beside me in the passenger’s seat. Somehow, after two hours of me mashing the breaks over and over again, she was still calm.     

My 16-year-old self, however? My inability to aim the car and perfectly align it with the curb was maddening.      

I was irritable and deflated.     

“Baby, calm down. You’ll get it. Put the car in park.”     

I couldn’t remember how many times she had calmly recommended that I park the car and calm down. But each time was necessary. Parallel parking was hard. But my mom was determined to teach me before we left that parking lot.     

“Ma, I—…”    

 “Look through the rearview mirror. See where you have to go,” she said.     

She wouldn’t let me complain anymore. Calmly, she reminded me of each step.     

Put the car in reverse.     

Back up.    

Okay, good! Now, cut the wheel.    

Okay, now, pay attention.      

Turn it the other way.     

I had heard her calmly recite those instructions dozens of times that morning—step by step by step. And soon, I started anticipating them with each new attempt at parking. I still backed into the spot too quickly here and there. Or I forgot to cut the wheel sharply enough and ended up parking too far away from the curb.     

But with each new try, I needed fewer reminders because I began remembering the instructions on my own. I began reciting the instructions to myself until, nearly one more hour later, I had successfully parallel parked.     

When I return to Paul’s writing in Galatians about the contrast between a life of sin and a life walking in step with the Spirit, I often return to this memory of my mom teaching me how to parallel park.      

I imagine myself seated beside Jesus, frustrated that I had once again missed the mark. But just like the apostle John promised us, Jesus calmly reminds me of His instruction—step by step by step (John 14:26).     

Be reconciled to your brother (Matthew 5:23-25).     

Okay, good! Now, bless those who curse you (Matthew 5:44-46).     

Do not judge or condemn others (Matthew 7:1-3).     

Okay, now, pay attention. Be generous to the oppressed (Luke 14:12-14).     

The reality that Jesus will always recite His instructions to me grounds me. It melts me out of a rigid state of failed perfectionism until I am moldable putty in God’s hands, ready to respond and submit to the next instruction.     

But, of course, we are cautioned against misunderstanding this relationship with Jesus and with Sin. We may be tempted to believe that the beauty of being followers of Jesus is that we will listen to His instruction until we eventually don’t need it— until we eventually no longer sin. But this is dangerously false.

Just like all people sin and fail to measure up to the glorious perfection of God, even those who have been driving for decades find themselves having to redo a parallel parking attempt here and there (Romans 3:22-23).     

No, the beauty is that we share a relationship with a God who has already forgiven us for every failed attempt to measure up. Our God is a God who has not only forgiven but has already done everything necessary behind the scenes to ensure that the destructive reality of sin is completely reversed. And, in the meantime, God promises to remind us of their holy instruction every time. They will never stop calmly reminding us how to love God with all our hearts, souls, and minds. They will always remind us of ways to love our neighbor.    

And we, as Jesus’ followers, will sit in the seat beside God—sometimes anxiously frustrated that we’ve missed the mark once again (because we will miss the mark once again). And we will learn to anticipate Jesus’ instruction—we will even crave it.     

And we will listen.     

And we will remember.     

And we will respond.

Reflection Questions

  1. In what ways are you reminded of Jesus’ instruction on a weekly basis? Take a moment to write them down. I invite you to thank God for the blessing of being reminded of God’s instruction for our lives.
  2. There’s likely some way that’s been difficult for you to love your neighbor lately—some way that you’ve been missing the mark when it comes to interacting with others. Take a moment to think about what that is. What instruction have you already received from Jesus through scripture about that particular sin? Take a moment to pray for more reminders of God’s instruction and a softened heart to listen, remember, and respond to it.