Much of the last year has taught me a number of things. One is the way God interacts with us in the seasons of struggle, pain, and loss.
The trouble is, many of us will find ourselves in the unhealthy guilt that really degrades and denies the grace of Christ in our lives as it is intended.
"I am your child. I quit trying to MAKE myself presentable to you and instead trust that I AM presentable to you despite all of the things that are just parts of a sinful nature around me. I move on in that passage and believe, 'if I confess my sin, you are faithful and just and will purify me and forgive me' because again, you only see your child here, and I need not be plagued by sin OR guilt. I mean is not guilt the actual issue here? Not sin. I mean sin is just inevitable, but what IS of choice by me is whether I will allow guilt to plague me and keep me from seeing myself as your child instead of seeing myself as this horrible person. You're so much quicker to forgive me than I am to forgive myself.
Soul, I will address you as the Psalmists do. Oh my soul within me, why do you continue to focus on the discouragement, shame, and self-defeat? Why do you not focus on Jesus and the rest he gives to you? (Matthew 11:28-29) Why do you believe the lies of the Imposter within you? Listen to the truth of Jesus' words, come to Him, and he will give you rest.
In Jesus, you find your rest. In Jesus, you find rescue and refuge from your troubles. In Jesus, you will find rest you crave and desire. Oh heart within me, you are under the weight of defeat, and you need rest. Only in Jesus will you find rest from self-defeat, hopelessness, and shame. Listen up, soul! You need rest! Only when you are focused on Jesus will you not be be focused on the destructive lies and inner-dialogue.
Oh my soul, come to Jesus this morning [and tomorrow....and the next day], and you WILL find rest.
This is very common with those who are abused. In an attempt to protect the abuser, but more detrimentally, in an attempt to hide their obvious need for help, battered women will put on a lot of make-up in order to cover the scars and bruises.
Eventually these battered women start to look fake with all of this make-up. As these women hide things more and more, nobody realizes anything is wrong. Nobody cares about her. Why doesn't anyone care about this woman who is abused and battered? Because nobody realizes she is abused. Nobody can see a need for love, for care, for protection. She becomes fragile but artificial. Nobody takes the time to care for her. She covers her pain, but more importantly, she covers her need.
The church and God's people have become battered women who cover up their hurt, pain and reality with spiritual cosmetics. We all have wounds and pain, but we cover them up and keep anyone and everyone from seeing the reality of ourselves. In so doing, we have come to appear frighteningly fake and artificial. We become people who nobody wants to approach, because we aren't real. We are artificial, have-it-all-together, battered men and women whom deflect people who could be there to come alongside and help us heal the wounds we are inflicted with.
We have neutered the Gospel when we mask ourselves with spiritual cosmetics. We become a sect of people who deny our pain and wounds, and in so doing become people nobody wants to relate to. Humans know pain and relate to those who can come alongside each other in pain to heal. But we cover up our pain and our wounds, we appear naive. Humans do not desire to relate to anyone who is naive to pain.
The Gospel is one of a God who hurts when we hurt, and weeps over our wounds. We verbally believe a Gospel, which claims a belief in a God who created a people who would operate as a body. When a part of the body is wounded, it (the body) begins to heal. That is the body we were created to be...the body the Gospel rings of, but we neuter the Gospel when we cover our wounds. We don't' expose our wounds for the body to heal. We cover it up with make-up and keep anyone from seeing that the pain is real. When we hide ourselves and our wounds, we hide a Gospel we SAY we believe in. We hide a God we SAY we believe in. We also hide the Gospel and God not only from ourselves, but also from the needy around us.
"To whom shall I turn for the gift of your coming into my heart so that I may forget all the wrong I have done, and embrace you alone, my only good?" - Augustine Where SHOULD I go; what should I do to really forget all the wrong I have done? Augustine poses a very piercing question. How do I embrace God alone? I have dedicated a lot of my life toward embracing God, but I have a horrible time with consistency. I say "a lot of my life" because of the many pockets of inconsistency. I only wish I really knew how to hold fast to God, to embrace him enough to forget all the wrong i have done.
Seriously! I am sitting here wondering what it would be like to actually forget all the wrong I have done, and frankly, it seems unimaginable. I cannot imagine that kind of freedom. What would it look like; what would it feel like to forget all the wrong you have done and to fully embrace God, my only good? That sort of freedom would mean that my past would never come back to kick me where it counts. That means I would not linger when I HAVE done wrong; I would be quick to my only good. That means I would only run forward in life without cease.
Bonhoeffer said, "Guilt is an idol." I have been thinking today about the role of guilt in our faith...or at least the role we have given guilt in our faith. I find myself essentially worshipping and lifting up guilt in my life quite a bit. Bonhoeffer has a fantastic grasp on the role we often give to guilt and shame. Self-rejection and hatred are far too present in the Christian faith. It was never intended to be this way. We too often take our own self-hatred and project it onto God, and that does not match up. We too often assume that God feels the same way about us that we fee about ourselves. This is impossible, of course, unless we are able to love ourselves with relentlessly tender and accepting love.
We have to destroy the idol of guilt and begin to accept ourselves as we really are. We are all wounded people, and need to learn to accept that. We, instead, either lacerate ourselves with guilt and shame, or we hide our wounds with pretty faces and admirable manufactured presentations of ourselves. We hide behind those masks and never allow ourselves to be known as we are. Sadly, I often hide for so long behind some masks that I believe they are real; I forget my real self.
Guilt remains an idol because my unwillingness to reveal myself as I am, wounds and all, is an unwillingness to accept myself. That unwillingness to accept myself is my unwillingness to accept that God truly is a loving God. I may accept it in my head while there remains a great chasm between my head and my heart.
How willing am I to be wounded; to accept that I am wounded? Without being immobilized by guilt?
How long will I worship the idol of guilt?
"Guilt is an idol." -Bonhoeffer
Self-rejection and hatred are far too present in Christians. It was never intended to be this way. Too often we project our own self-hatred onto God, and it does not match up. Too often we assume God feels the same way about us that we fee about ourselves. This is impossible, of course, unless we are able to love ourselves relentlessly.
We have to destroy the idol of guilt and begin to accept ourselves as we really are. We are all wounded people and need to learn to accept that.
We, instead, either lacerate ourselves with guilt and shame, or hide our wounds with pretty faces and admirable manufactured presentations of ourselves. We hide behind those masks and never allow ourselves to be known as we are. Sadly, I often hide for so long behind some masks, I believe them; I forget who I really am.
Guilt remains an idol because my unwillingness to reveal myself as I am is an unwillingness to accept myself. That unwillingness to accept myself is my unwillingness to accept that God truly is a loving God.
How willing am I to be wounded; to accept that I am wounded? How willing am I to realize and accept that I am wounded without being immobilized by guilt?
How long will I worship the idol of guilt?
"For I do not understand my own actions. For I do not do what I want, but I do the very thing I hate." -Romans 7:15 God's word has hit me to the heart today. Reading Paul's reflections in Romans 7 about that tension of doing what I hate and not doing what I want to do, I am stricken by the word "hate".
Sure I understand what it is like to do things I wish I hadn't. I know what it is like to do things and feel bad for doing them, but I am not certain that I HATE my sin. I am not certain that I see my sin and loathe those things which continue to pull me away from my Father. I dislike them and try to avoid them, but I cannot say that I HATE them.
I want to look at those things which disconnect me from Him and know that I hate them for that. I want to hate my sin and those things which continue to attack my heart with guilt and shame. I want to hate my sin that I might love God more.