Larry and I were headed home when I remembered I wanted to drop in to get a few things at the grocery store. “Hon, drop me off at the grocery store and I’ll just be a second.” 

Larry pulled the car into the parking lot and even though there were many open spaces close to the front of the store, he parked a ways out, with the front of the car pointed toward the front doors. As I got out of the car and slammed the door, I muttered, “Thanks a lot for making me walk.” I continued to huff and puff my irritation as I grabbed a few things, checked out, and made my way back to the car. After I climbed back in, Larry said, “Hey, what’s wrong?”

“What’s wrong? Why didn’t you park close to the doors?”

Larry looked at me in surprise. “Oh, I didn’t think of it. When I park my police car somewhere, I always park away from the entrance so that I can have a view of the whole place to watch what’s happening. I guess I just parked this time like that without really thinking about it. I’ve done it for so long.”

I smiled and instantly forgave him, understanding his police-trained mind had kicked in even though he’s been retired for ten years. 

It didn’t take long for me to see the analogy to the “self-protective sinful strategies” Larry and I talk about and coach others to identify in their lives, like we have in our own. Larry’s police training was a protective method of staying in control and being safe while on duty–and a good thing! What’s not good, is the same way you and I train ourselves to protect ourselves and stay safe and in control when not trusting God. Even my irritable anger towards Larry a few moments before was a self-protective sinful strategy.

When Larry parked away from the store doors, I felt uncared for and unloved. I believed the lie that I wasn’t really worth much, otherwise, Larry would park close for my convenience. To think of asking him to re-park closer to the doors would have risked rejection of him saying, “No.” Then it would be validated that he really doesn’t love me after all. Plus I believed the lie that if he loved he, he could read my mind.

And all that lie-believing even though we’ve been married for 42 years (next month) and I have worked on refusing these lies for a long time! Plus! I truly believe Larry loves me so whole-heartedly and would have gladly moved the car closer if I’d said anything. But I’m living the abundant life only when I’m not operating “in the flesh” and cooperating with Satan’s flaming missiles. In those moments, I succumbed to welcoming the flesh and the missiles.

And that’s what we do every time we default to the self-protective sinful strategies that we’ve honed because in that moment we don’t really truly believe God loves us. We default into not trusting Him because we must protect ourselves from danger. He may not protect us the way we want.

The next time you react with any ungodly response (any reaction opposite the fruit of the Spirit), ask yourself, “What lie am I believing? How am I protecting myself from seeming danger or rejection or _______? How can I trust God instead?”