Friday, May 31, 2013

Guilt vs. Conviction

Faith Friday

I am the Queen of Guilt.


I could have a tiara and everything.

I have the ability to feel guilty about things that haven't happened yet.

Things that might have happened but didn't.

Things that happened over a decade ago.

If guilt was an art, I would be the Da Vinci.

But here is the thing, guilt achieves nothing.

A mother screams at her children, struggling with anger day after day.  She feels guilt and self medicates with food, facebook and 'me time'.  Then the next day it all starts again.

Because the thing is, the source of guilt is Satan.

There is a reason he is known as the "accuser of the brethren".

Guilt focuses us inward, on our unworthiness, without hope for redemption.

Guilt overwhelms us with our own filth.

Guilt renders us powerless, a victim of our own choices.

Guilt focuses our vision on our own unworthiness, which makes us angry, frustrated, sad and hopeless but we can wrap ourselves in guilt like a big, smelly blanket and wallow - because guilt is also stationary and there is a certain comfort in not going anywhere.

Because if we are hopeless and powerless we have we have no choice in the matter - no responsibility or ability to change.

This is not God's plan for us.

Guilt does not cleanse us and it is not the starting point of redemption.

Conviction is.

"Conviction is the work of the Holy Spirit where a person is able to see himself as God sees him: guilty, defiled, and totally unable to save himself" Christian Apologetics and Research Ministry Dictionary of Theology

Conviction gives us an understanding of where we stand in relation to God.

Because conviction is the work of the Holy Spirit it does not stop there.  It points us to God, the God of Hope who will fill us with all Joy and Peace (Romans 15:13).  When we are convicted truly to see ourselves as God sees us we cease to have any twisted feelings of virtue about our guilt.  We can no longer pretend that by feeling bad, we will make anything in our lives any better.  We know that there is nothing we can do that will save us. We cannot justify our sin, crying about it does not make us more worthy, being sad that we are bad does not make us good. So where does this Hope, Joy and Peace come from?

Our choice to accept Salvation and live in Grace.

Choice is the most powerful thing we as humans possess and Satan makes it a full time job to help us forget this.

He tries to trap us in that guilt cycle to keep our eyes firmly focused on how bad we are to distract us from just how good God is.

So how do we get off the Guilt cycle and get ourselves some of that Hope, Joy and Peace?

Step 1.  Determine the difference between guilt and conviction.  Who are you focusing on, yourself or Christ?  Are your feelings of unworthyness driving you to acts of destruction toward yourself and others (anger, hopelessness, frustration, binge eating, habitual sin?) or driving you deeper into God's Word and Prayer?  What are you obsessing about, your own feelings or past actions or Christ's redemption and true repentance?  What are you moving toward, true change toward a more Godly attitude and life (sanctification) or being paralysed by hopelessness?  Be real about this, with yourself and God.  The first step toward being somewhere else is being real about where you are.

Step 2.  So you're guilty, now what?  Ask.  Ask for the Holy Spirit to replace your guilt with conviction.  Ask what you need to do next.  Saturate yourself in Prayer.  The Holy Spirit will not let you down, He comes to all those who ask - He is our comforter, not our accuser (John 14:26).  Make contact, reach out to God.

Step 3.  The brethren who were accused day and night by that Old Devil overcame Him by the Blood of the Lamb and by the word of their testimony (Revelation 12:10).  When we have accepted that gift of Salvation, we are justified.  We are washed in the blood of the Lamb of God (Revelation 1:5).  So testify.  Write it in a journal, phone a friend, pray it out loud, say it, sing it, put it on a post-it note on your mirror - however you want to do it.  Just put it out there that you are saved, not because of the righteous things you've done, but by His mercy through Jesus Christ (Titus 3:5).  Every time that old accuser comes calling, remind him that he is defeated.  Sing the hymns, crank up the worship music, quote the scriptures, click on every scripture in this post and write it out on a post-it, decorate your house with the precious Word which will remind you of your salvation and focus your eyes on how good God is rather than how bad you are.    

Step 4. Live it.  Guilt traps you in a cycle.  You don't move forward with guilt.  Conviction is a starting point to move forward toward becoming the beautiful person God created you to be.  Did you know you were created for good works?  Yes, we are saved by grace through faith - if we are truly convicted of our sin we know we can't boast that we earned that precious gift of salvation (Ephesians 2:8-9).  Now we are saved, we are free to do the work set out for us (Ephesians 2:10).  We are free to get out of our own way and allow the Holy Spirit to bear His beautiful fruit in our lives (Galatians 5:22).  We are free to love other people fully and completely without being so bound up in our own angst and guilt that we destroy those around us.  We are free to apologise whole heartedly to those we have offended and do what we can to make amends - without trying to justify ourselves or minimise our sin.  We are free to let go of habitual sin and cling on to God's Word.  We are free to drop those burdens that we have been carrying for so long they seem a part of us.  We can run in the path of God's commands as He broadens our understandings and sets our hearts free (Psalm 119:32).  You have a family in Christ now who can pray for you, that you are freed  - that you will be healed (James 5:6) .  You can seek counsel and prayer to help you with your issues that Satan uses to trip you up into those old familiar sins.  You can saturate yourself in God's Word, the ultimate answer.

What work is there sitting in front of you that can glorify God?  Perhaps it isn't big in the eyes of the world.  Is it simply loving your spouse and kids?  Is it being patient and loving to those people in your life right now?  I challenge you to stop the cycle of guilt and sin and accept that gift of salvation completely.  I challenge you to start becoming that beautiful creation you were made to be (2 Corinthians 5:17).  I challenge you to focus your eyes on Jesus, throw off all that is hindering you and run that race (Hebrews 12:1-2)  Stop the guilt cycle.  Stop believing you have no power to change.  Stop believing you are not capable of better in your life - because you can do all things through Christ (Philippians 4:13).

What I am talking about is a relationship with God and relationships are rarely a step by step deal.  It's more of a dance.  You may find yourself having to do the quickstep, repeating 1, 2, 3, 1, 2, 3 a few times before you are ready for 4.  Then you may find yourself turning and starting all over again.

But what I am saying dear friends, is when guilt comes calling, start dancing.  Because we are not called to be guilty, we are called to be free.  Free to live life more abundantly (John 10:10).

Thursday, May 30, 2013

What's in a name?

I was always the weird kid.  I had have a slightly twisted sense of humour.  I will be the one telling the ever-so-slightly inappropriate joke or laughing at the "wrong" parts of the movie.  I remember when I was 16 I went to see Fifth Element with a group of friends.  Afterwards one of them scolded me with wide eyes "how could you LAUGH when they were SHOOTING PEOPLE?!".  Um, because it was a comedy?  I thought so anyway.

There's nothing WRONG with me - I don't think anyway.

Then I grew up.  I got married.  I had a baby and found I liked it so much I kept having them.

I had 6 of them.

In less than 8 years.

I don't do things by halves.

Our sixth baby changed our lives more dramatically than we could ever have imagined.  She was born with severe, life threatening, health issues and a rare syndrome called Cornelia de Lange Syndrome.

In her early days I spent 8 weeks sitting by her hospital bedside and I blogged my little heart out.  Writing was a way to make sense of the world, to communicate with my husband (who was interstate from me taking care of the other five kids for most of this time), to let the world know what we were going through.

But as any writer knows, writing honestly is hard.

At the start, when life was so folded in on itself the outside world seemed almost fictional, I didn't care what the world thought.  I didn't think about what the world thought.  My whole life was focused on keeping that little girl alive and trying to untangle the snarl of issues, worries, STUFF that had dropped into my lap.  Hemmingway once said

Well I was bleeding anyway - in the metaphorical sense (which I am assuming Ernest was referring to) - so it was just a case of putting the lap top in front of the flow.

Then as I started to find my feet again.  My toes started to catch on the rocks on the bottom of the river that had swept me off my feet and I started to raise my head above the water and look around once in a while.

I freaked out.

The handful of readers who were following my blog kept telling me over and over who I was.  "You're Amazing!" "You're a Super Mum!" "You're Fantastic!" "You're so Strong!"

The people in my life had opinions of how I should run my life.  "Accept this money from this charity - even if it makes you feel awkward and you don't know what to spend it on!", "Send your traumatised older children away and have the house re-roofed and rewired - because renovations are the priority right now!",  "Have this bag full of hand-me-down clothes even though you have nowhere to store it an no time to go through it and you don't need any more clothes!",  "Have this cake even though there are so many cakes on your kitchen bench you can't fix dinner and you don't even like cake!"

Readers and the people in my life had opinions on what and when I should write. "You have an OBLIGATION to your readers!", "We all want to know what's going on, you need to write more!", "How dare you write that watching people pin down your baby and hurt her makes you want to punch them, that is so inappropriate for a public forum!", "I can't talk to you anymore because you wrote that listening to other parents talk about normal frustrations upsets you on a bad day and I don't want to upset you."
And that's the day, ladies and gentlemen, the blog died.

It all just got too hard.

I wanted to write because that's what I do, not out of a sense of obligation.

I wanted to write honestly, but not hurt my relationships.

Between doctors, therapists and other para-professionals decisions as simple as what and how to feed my kid were now being made by committee.  The last thing I wanted was another opinion on how to run my life and putting myself out there onto the internet seemed to be taken by some as an invitation to comment.

And I didn't want to be a Super-Mum.

People don't really listen to Super-Mums.

If a Super-Mum tries to be honest about her pain or her failings, her "fans" just keep shouting at her how fantastic she is until she is quiet and goes back to living up to their expectations.

It's not me.

I am changed, but I am still me.

And I needed to take some time to figure out who that was now before having the world shout at me who they thought I should be.

I think I am starting to work out who that is again now.

And I am still twisted.

I still laugh at the wrong places in movies.

I still give a happy wriggle of joy when I hear the Dr Who theme.

I still consider Joss Wheedon to be the Shakespere of our time.

I still cling on to my Bible as a lifeline I can't do without.

I still make inappropriate jokes.

I still occasionally use words that I pray will never come out of my kid's mouths in front of their grandmother.

I still loose my mobile phone on a regular basis and can't abide touch screens.

I still consider eating cheese and/or chocolate and watching youtube videos on my own to be the penultimate way to spend an evening.

When I am angry, it is not because I am bitter, it is because I am angry.

When I am frustrated, it is not because I am not coping, it is because I am frustrated.

When I am sad, it is not because I am broken, it is because I am sad.

I am not an icon.

I am not a doe eyed Madonna with lilly white skin, a symbol of self sacrifice and maternal perfection.

I am not a Super-Mum.

I am me.

And I still write.

I am twisted - not broken.

This blog is my fresh start at writing for the public forum.  What do I want out of it?  I am still trying to work that out.  But I know that writing with no audience is like having half a conversation.  I want to throw some ideas and thoughts - practical, theoretical and esoteric - out there.  I want to polish up this compulsion I have to write and actually do something with it.  I want to play around with words.

So here we both are.  Let's see where it takes us.