We will struggle with sin every day. We’re human – it’s what we do. However, that doesn’t mean we can’t free ourselves of it.
As an adopted Texan, a while back I was listening to one of my new favorite Apple music playlists, “Don’t Mess With Texas,” when the chorus of a song caught my attention.
“Some days a raven, some days a dove. Some days the dark cloud hanging round, others from the light above. I’m scuffed up by the devil, but I’m washed in the blood. Some days a raven, some days a dove.”
Written by Cody Jinks, the song describes the singer’s battle between sin and virtue. As a Christian, I think we can all remember days where we felt scuffed up by the devil. Sin is something we will all struggle with, and can often leave us feeling dirty or “lesser than.” However, it is in these moments that we can remember that we have a God who sent his only son to help us get back up when we fall. We are washed in His blood and cleansed of our sin.
I want to first take a closer look at the symbolism behind the two birds, the raven and the dove. We see them appear multiple times in scripture. Both birds appear in the book of Genesis in the tale of Noah’s ark - the raven as a symbol of vice, the dove as a symbol of virtue. At the end of the great flood Noah opens the hatch of the boat and first releases the raven. The bird flies, “back and forth” and does not return. Again, Noah opens the hatch but this time with a dove in hand. The dove returns, twice, bringing back in its mouth an olive branch.
Released into the world, the raven chooses not to return, and instead finds pleasure in things that have no life (if you don’t catch my ~drift~ here, the drowned animals didn’t just disappear with the storm). It falls victim to the temptation of what it sees and does not return to Noah. The dove on the other hand does not - it resists temptation and returns to the Ark, bearing a symbol of peace and victory.
Some days we are like the raven. We have been released into this world with the gift of free will, and sometimes we encounter opportunities that lead us to sin. Temptation is everywhere. The devil knows how to get you, to isolate you, and to pit you against others. He knows that we can be weak and he will do anything to bring you down. Not only does he do this to gain control of a soul, but he does it to gain control of many. He loves to isolate you from others because he knows how powerful we as Christians can be when we come together, especially holy, faithful Christians. In fact, when we come together Jesus is present - and when Jesus is present, the devil always loses. We see this written in scripture,
When two or three are gathered together in My name, I am there in the midst of them.” (Matthew 18:20)
Satan is afraid of what we can do if we figure this out, so he toys with us. Sin is inviting because it is designed to draw us in, to scuff us up. This is why we need to be more like the dove, and to recognize where and how we can fight back.
We may all have raven days, but we also have dove days. On these occurrences we avoid the temptations of the devil, returning victorious to our God with the fruits and peace of our journey to sainthood. On the days that we choose to go forth and live the gospel, we are the dove. These are the days that we choose sacrifice, love, prayer, peace - you name it. Our actions bring joy to our God when they reflect His love and His mission. Think of each of them as little olive branches you can bring back to Him.
As much as we want to be the dove 24/7, we often find ourselves to have the wings of the raven. This is ok. The journey to sainthood is non-linear. Like the birds released from the Ark, some days we will fall victim to the temptation in front of us, others we will return with gifts from our day’s labors for God. We will struggle with sin every day. We’re human – it’s what we do. However, that doesn’t mean we can’t free ourselves of it. Like the dove, we can know peace and strength during our day to day journeys. We can always return to God. No matter how many times we turn away, God will always turn towards us with open arms. In spite of our sins and shortcomings, He loves us! He yearns to forgive us, to purify our hearts and minds. How do I know this? He has given us prayer to battle our temptations and grow closer in relationship with him. He has given us the sacraments to unite us with him and give us grace. But most importantly, God sent his only son into this world to die on a cross for our sins. We are washed in the blood of the lamb of God and cleansed of our sin.
What can we do when we are faced with opportunities that lead us to sin? Understanding sin and its near occasions can greatly improve our spiritual lives. We all have different triggers and temptations, some stronger than others. Recognizing these is the first step. The second, is setting boundaries. Know your limits! Don’t put yourself in a compromising situation because you think, “you’re strong.” Maybe you are, but why risk it? Don’t put yourself in situations that aren’t actively leading you to Heaven.
So next time the dark clouds are hanging round you, remember this: you can always return to our God. So put your shame from sin to rest - redemption awaits! Our Father accepts and loves us beyond our failures. He does not see us as a compilation of our sins, so we shouldn’t either. It’s okay to struggle, it’s okay to not be perfect. Our God doesn’t expect perfection - he knows we are merely human. As Cody says, our God knows that some days we’ll be like a raven, others, like a dove, but we can always be washed by the blood.