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Have You Given Permission?

“I cannot kill it against your will. It is impossible. Have I your permission?” – C.S. Lewis, The Great Divorce

In C.S. Lewis’ novel The Great Divorce, there is a scene where an angel confronts a man tormented by lust, which is represented as a lizard perched on the man’s shoulder. The man wants to be free of the lust – which the angel says he can help him accomplish – but at first he tries to make excuses for keeping the lizard. In the course of his argument with the angel, he exclaims, “If you wanted to help me, why didn’t you kill the damned thing without asking me – before I knew? It would all be over by now if you had.”

It is at that point that the angel says clearly, “I cannot kill it against your will. It is impossible. Have I your permission?”

There is a very great lesson here: God cannot and will not free us from sin unless we ourselves want to be freed. It isn’t enough to say, “Oh, if only I didn’t struggle with <fill in the blank>!” … if we keep on making excuses to continue in our course every time God offers to help us conquer our sin.

Do I sometimes wish God would override my free will “for my own good”? Yes, I do. But then I realize why he will never do so: he values me too much. He values my partnership in this journey called life. He values my love. He values my trust. He values my identity. He wants to pour out his power and grace and love and Spirit in my life, but he wants me to be an integral part of that outpouring. For that reason, he will not force himself on me, but is waiting patiently for my permission … and with it, my cooperation and submission … so that he can act on my behalf.

  • What sins are you struggling with regularly?

  • Do you want to be freed from these sins? Be completely honest. If you don’t really want to be free of one or more of these sins, why not?

  • How have you been cooperating with God to overcome these sins? How have you been hindering his work in your life?

  • Spend time in confession and repentance, and give God permission to do whatever is necessary to help you grow in holiness.

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