My daughter Cora is obsessed with all things pink.
A couple of days ago we saw a huge selection of colorful dresses at a local children’s clothing store. I saw a beautiful yellow one, a bright green one, and one with polka dots that I really wanted her to get. As we walked up to the display I asked Cora which dress she would like.
“The pink one,” was her prompt reply.
Of course. I probably shouldn’t have even asked. This daughter that God has given me is the girliest-girl I’ve ever seen. She prances around in high heels, wearing her “married” dress, dripping with costume jewelry, and slathering on the “lipstick” (a.k.a. “chapstick”). Her favorite game is to play “mom” and she has recently discovered a new friend — Barbie.
When I found out that I was pregnant with a girl I decided that I wasn’t going to fall into the trap of dressing her all in pink. I purposely chose purple, yellow, green, and white clothes for her. I bought non-pink receiving blankets and nursery décor. I have never been that much of a girly-girl; I tend to fall somewhere in that middle ground between tomboy and beauty queen. But nature took over and I ended up with a pink-loving, baby-doll carrying, high-heel wearing princess.
So which is stronger: Nature or nurture?
Usually people equate this question to child development. Do little girls play with dolls instead of trucks because that’s their nature or because they’ve been conditioned that way? Do boys like to slam each other into the carpet in a winner-take-all wrestling battle because their dads make them or because they naturally feel that competitiveness within them?
However, is there another side to the question?
In Romans 7:15-20, Paul describes a different nature vs. nurture battle:
I do not understand what I do. For what I want to do I do not do, but what I hate to do. For I have the desire to do what is good, but I cannot carry it out. For what I do is not the good I want to do; no, the evil I do not want to do — this I keep on doing…. For in my inner being I delight in God’s law; but I see another law at work in the members of my body, waging war against the law of my mind and making me a prisoner of the law of sin at work within my members.
This is a spiritual nature vs. nurture battle that wages within each of us. Paul describes the turmoil he experiences through wanting to do right but knowing that his very nature is working against him. By nature we are sinful beings. We are selfish, greedy, angry, self-centered individuals (a couple hours with a group of toddlers can reveal the truth in this).
How can we change our nature?
God calls us to a higher standard. In Galatians 5:22-23, Paul describes the type of people we are to be: loving, joyful, peaceful, patient, kind, good, faithful, gentle, and self-controlled. It sounds so easy; of course, this is the type of person I want to be.
Paul describes the problem in Romans: we are prisoners to the law of sin in our bodies. So does this mean that nature wins? No! Because we have a secret weapon: Jesus’ death on the cross freed us from our slavery to sin.
What does it mean to nurture?
Look at the things that are in our own nature and then compare them to the attributes of God, the Fruit of the Spirit, the character of Jesus that we want to nurture within ourselves. This isn’t something that will just happen. The things of our nature are the ways of the flesh, the sin living in us. We need to be intentional about what things we are nurturing in our lives and remember that there are two natures (one flesh, one spirit) waging war within our bodies.
Here are some suggestions to help with the battle:
Be accountable. Seek out a trusted friend and let them know the area that you feel God is pinpointing for you to trust Him for change in. Meet regularly with this person and be honest with them about how you have done since your last get-together.
Be resourceful. Find a good book that speaks into the area you’re looking for change in. Respectable Sins by Jerry Bridges is a great resource that covers a multitude of sins that the Christian community tends to overlook and turn a blind eye to. He handles it in a gracious, but no-nonsense way.
Be consistent. Paul describes it as another law waging war against the law of his mind. As much as we have freedom through Christ’s sacrifice on the cross, this is a daily battle that needs to be committed to. This is a battle that we cannot win on our own. It will require constant dependence on the Holy Spirit to help us guard our mouths, regulate our actions, and change our thoughts and feelings. The living word of God will need to be frequently poured into our hearts and minds through times of devotion, prayer, and worship.
The task seems daunting but there is reason to hope:
I am confident of this very thing, that He who began a good work in you will perfect it until the day of Christ Jesus. (Philippians 1:6)
As for Cora, her nature might have resisted my attempts to curb the “pink” in her life, but I know that through God’s direction I will have better success with helping her learn to nurture the Fruit of the Spirit within her soul.