A friend recently shared a facebook post about the absurdity of contronyms. For those of you non-English majors, contronyms are words that are their own opposites. For example, the word oversight means “to supervise or oversee.” On the flip side, it can also mean “a failure to see or observe.” Hence, the caution which one should extend when hiring an overseer. You want to be sure he fulfills the first definition and not the second.
Likewise, the word cleave can be defined as either “to cling to or adhere” or “to split or sever.” Thus, when one vows to cleave to a spouse, it is important that he or she is referring to the first definition for cleave rather than the second. Otherwise, divorce will be inevitable. How about the word weather? It either means “to withstand” (as in, safely weather the storm) or “to be worn away,” much like a stone is weathered by the elements. How about fast? Is it “to move quickly” or “to remain fixed or unmoving”?
The more I pondered these confusing contradictions of the English language, the more easily it became to see a resemblance to myself within these definitions.
I am a human contronym.
For as much as I desire to live firmly and resolutely, all too often, I find my life reflecting the values in which I believe, much the same as a contronym continually contradicts itself. Perhaps you can relate, as well.
For instance, I purpose to hold my tongue and refrain from speaking words that are less than encouraging, only to find myself freely spouting an opinion that would better be left unsaid. I determine to take my thoughts captive only to have them overtaken by anxiousness when a situation rears its ugly head, causing my faith to totter precariously. I set my mind to avoid temptation, yet tumble headfirst into yet another snare set before me. And the list goes on…
Just when I am tempted to despair at the thought of ever getting a handle on this Christian life, I find myself encouraged by someone who has shared in the same challenges. One who has faced the same struggles with self-control. Perhaps you have come across a few of his writings in the New Testament, too. It seems the apostle Paul himself may have had a bit of a bent toward “contronymdom,” as suggested by the following excerpt from Romans 7.
This is a segment of Scripture I have personally tagged with the title The War Within:
The trouble is with me.
For I am all too human.
A slave to sin.
I don’t really understand myself.
For I want to do what is right.
But I don’t do it.
Instead, I do what I hate.
I want to do what is right,
But I can’t .
I want to do what is good,
But I don’t.
I don’t want to do what is wrong,
But I do it anyway.
I have discovered this principle of life –
That when I want to do what is right,
I inevitably do what is wrong.
I love God’s law with all my heart,
But there is another power within me
That is at war with my mind.
This power makes me a slave
To the sin that is still within me.
Oh what a miserable person I am!
Who will free me from this life
That is dominated by sin and death?
The answer is in Jesus Christ
So now there is no condemnation
For those who belong to Christ Jesus.
And because I belong to Him,
The power of the life-giving Spirit
Has freed me
From the power of sin
That leads to death.
In the face of flying contronyms, faith flies freely. The answer to these opposing behaviors at war within is to take them before the throne of grace.
The answer, dear friends, is Jesus Christ. Our Lord.
For those who belong to Him, there are no opposite behaviors ruling higher than His mercies extend. There are no frustrating contronyms that have the power to overcome the life-giving Spirit of the Living God who has freed us from the control of sin and death.
There’s only love.
And that, dear ones, is more than enough.
You have His Word on it.