“Wax on, wax off. Wax on, wax off…” Mr. Miyagi makes poor “Danielsan” repeat the motion over and over and over again. Later, Mr. Miyagi suddenly starts to attack Daniel and tells him to block. Daniel thinks he has no idea how to block, but the motion of waxing is the same as blocking. Daniel quickly learns why he’s been doing the monotonous chore for so long, and to his surprise, he blocks with ease.
This is what I picture in my head when it comes to how we “do righteousness.” What is worshipping God supposed to look like? How do I stir myself up by way of reminder? How do I make provision for the Spirit? How do I practice the promises of God? We all feel lost to start with. But it’s important to realize that we’ve been “waxing” for quite some time.
For just as you once presented your members as slaves to impurity and to lawlessness leading to more lawlessness, so now present your members as slaves to righteousness leading to sanctification. (Romans 6:19)
We actually do know how to worship. We’ve been doing it since birth. We sigh with longing, closing our eyes to the little movies we play in our heads: kids who obey, a house that doesn’t break, retirement, that last loan payment, that promotion, being desired, or close friendships in a new city.
We also know how to pursue mission. We study how to look up pornography and not get caught. We think up our spouse’s mistakes, crafting detailed arguments against them. We learn our neighbors’ routines to avoid them. We sneak in the extra work hours, telling our family that it’s “required.” We find ways to appear busy while not doing work. We memorize every nuance of our favorite sports team, TV show, or novel.
Nobody had to teach us how to do these things. As odd as it sounds, we can learn a lot from how we “do sin.” See the depth of desires, the vivid imaginations, and the real world actions that follow. Righteousness works out in the same places as sin used to. Where disobedience carried out its mission under sin’s power to mask God, obedience now carries out its mission under God’s greater power to make Him more known.
When we aren’t living Godly lives, it isn’t because we don’t know how. It is ultimately because the desire is lacking. This is a time to behold God like we beheld sin, to fantasize over God like we fantasized over sin, and to pursue God like we pursued sin. Where sin was pointless, rote movement that accomplished nothing, obedience leverages that motion to accomplish eternal things by God’s power. This can help us lead others through what righteousness looks like in their lives.
When righteousness doesn’t look as concrete and vivid as sin did, this reveals a desireproblem, not a “knowing how” problem.