(From the Judson Journal, March 2008)
Despite being seven months pregnant, Erin is acting just like herself—as sweet and kind as ever. I almost feel like I have to qualify that with an apology to my friends who warned me just how horribly mean and crazy pregnant women are. To their credit, most of these men seem to be understanding about such things. Men know it’s not the women’s fault—it’s the hormones and all those chemical changes in their brains. They just can’t help but act irrational (read: psychotic.)
You hear that sort of thing about women from time-to-time, pregnant or not: don’t question why they’re acting that way—it’s the hormones and chemicals in their brains. There’s no way a man could possibly understand it all, so just roll with it.
I’m sure there’s plenty of truth to that (most of the time) and if the ninth month of pregnancy turns out to be the crazy month, you better believe I’ll be ready to roll with it. Turn the heat up, down, whatever. Yes, I’ll go the store and get you some black cherry ice cream and miracle whip, no problem. Even though it’s 2 AM. No, you don’t look fat. No, not even with that baby inside of you. Not at all.
But this thing should go both ways. I’ve never heard anyone defend a man’s midlife crisis because of all the “chemicals and hormonal changes” the poor guy’s dealing with. I’ve never heard anyone harshly and in hushed tones say, “Leave him alone! So he bought a $40,000 sports car. You don’t know what he’s going through! There are chemicals in his brain you can’t possibly understand!” And likewise, when I was 18, 19, 20 years old, I don’t recall anyone cutting me a break on account of the changing chemicals in my noodle.
I’m sure you’ve read the same articles I have about this stuff and I can testify (as can any man) that the shift from teenager to adulthood is a wacky time in a man’s brain. Why do you think the armed forces want to attract men in that age group? Yeah, they’re in the best physical shape of their lives, but more than that, they feel invincible, they get really mad really easy, and they’re game for anything. You can’t tell me that has nothing to do with the chemistry of their brains.
For example, ten years ago, if someone cut me off in traffic, I’d risk life and limb to get back in front of that person and show him how very displeased I was with his driving abilities (ask Erin—she can vouch for that). Just a decade later, cut me off and I’ll mumble something about how you’re a “bozo” and shouldn’t be on the road. But waste a bunch of gas, risk an accident,and chance that the other guy has a gun and a screw loose? Nah. Not worth the trouble.
Part of that is just regular old maturing and growing up. But there’s more to it. I don’t even have the same impulse anymore. And ten years ago, if an appliance or an office machine failed me or made me really mad, you know what I’d do? My roommate and I would bring it out to a game area and shoot it. Yeah, with guns. Computers, CD players, mini-fridges, answering machines, you name it. They failed us, we shot them. Does that make any sense when I think about it now? No. But back then, it made perfect sense. I mean, you have to make an example out of these things or your electronics will start walking all over you. And don’t any of you women judge me either—I had chemicals going through my brain that you could never understand!
These days, what do I do if an appliance goes out on me? If it’s a computer, I’ll still whack it a couple times for old time’s sake, but for the most part, I just mumble something about how it was probably made by some “bozo” and I throw it away. (This is a good thing, since Paul prohibits men given to “fits of rage” from serving as pastors). In fact, I haven’t even fired a gun in years… until last Friday, that is.
Friday, I went with a buddy of mine to a pistol range in Mason for some target practice. We didn’t bring any broken coffee makers or stereos; we just settled for the traditional targets. Having not fired a gun for the better part of a decade, I was not expecting to be a crack shot and suggested that my buddy (a certain recently married, bearded, collegiate Baptist) go first. He sent the target out to the back of the lane and fired a few shots. They were all off by about the same amount, down and to the right. Examining the target, we both came to the same conclusion: the sites were off. In order to be able to shoot straight and hit the bullseye, he’d need to adjust the gun.
The guy running the place had a different idea. “It’s not your gun,” he said, and proceeded to give us some pointers on target shooting. We needed to take it slower, relax a little bit. Less finger on the trigger. With the right stance, the right grip, and the right technique, we were shooting pretty well before long.
Being a Bible geek, any time I see target shooting of any kind—whether it’s archery, darts, muzzleloaders, whatever—I can’t help but think about the word hamartia. It’s the Greek word for “sin,” but very literally it means “to miss the mark.” That’s quite a word picture. If I give in to temptation and sin, then ethically I “miss the mark.” And when we miss the mark, what is our usual response? Well, there must be something wrong with the gun, right? The site is off. I can’t expect to hit the bullseye with what I’ve got—I’m lucky to hit the target at all.
The Scriptures tell us that we were all born with original sin, a will that is bent away from God’s will. And we can see the results of that in every sinful choice we’ve made throughout our lives. Surely, the gun was broken. But for those of us who are in Christ, we’ve been made new. Our will is being realigned with that of our Creator’s. We are free to continually hit the mark. To blame our sins—our missing of the target—on faulty hardware is to minimize the effects of the cross. While we are not yet perfected, and while we are still tempted by the world, the flesh, and the devil, we can’t pin our shortcomings on any of them. If the devil made you do it, you blew it. In Christ, you could have hit the bullseye.
I’m 99% sure that the grizzled gun enthusiast at the pistol range has never been compared to Jesus before, but I can hear the Lord saying to me, “It’s not the gun” when I miss the mark. By his death and resurrection (and by my death and resurrection with him), he’s given me the ability to shoot straight and hit the mark. And while there may have been angry chemicals coursing through my 19-year-old brain, that doesn’t change the fact that driving like a man obsessed with revenge was sinful. I couldn’t lay the blame on the devil any more than I could on the flesh. It’s not the gun.
Am I implying that pregnant women have no right to act a little edgy? Of course not. Nor am I suggesting that people with a true chemical imbalance in their minds don’t need psychiatric help to get things back in order so their minds are healthy. In a fallen world, there are a lot of things to take into consideration. But even in a fallen world, I know that Jesus is actively renewing me and you and making us into the kind of people who can hit the mark every time.
Soli Deo Gloria,
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