As mothers, we are constantly threatened by the specter of guilt.
Another mother bakes cookies with toddlers.
Another mother makes handmade Christmas cards every year.
Another mother scrubs her bathroom. Every day.
Another mother wakes up at 4:30 AM to exercise, read her bible and make a homemade breakfast for her family.
Another mother makes her children homemade halloween costumes.
We find ourselves feeling guilty. We feel guilty when we take time for ourselves. We feel guilty when we lose our patience, our temper and our car keys. We feel guilty when we open a box of mac-n-cheese or order dinner from Domino's.
I wanted to share some really good news with you today. Namely, this truth:
"Feeling guilty is a choice."
My mother quoted that to me more times than I can remember. As a Christian, she explained, I am freed by the knowledge that feeling guilty does NOT come with the territory of being a mother, a woman or a human being.
Romans 8:1-3 has this to say about guilt:
Therefore, there is now no condemnation [guilt] for those who are in Christ Jesus, because through Christ Jesus the law of the Spirit who gives life has set you free from the law of sin and death. (emphasis mine, NIV)
Feeling guilty is not from God. When we accept that Jesus has saved our life, and offers us a guilt-free existence, we receive, among so many other gifts, the gift of a life free from guilt.
And let me explain - guilt is different from conviction. When the Holy Spirit is speaking truth to your heart and you try to ignore it, you'll feel a sense of pressure and heaviness. That's conviction.
I wanted to talk about guilt now, because holidays are coming. And with them come all the comparisons, the expectations and the crazy schedules. And I want to encourage you to explore the concept of guilt versus conviction now, so that when the pressure starts to mount, you can examine the emotions and ask yourself - 'Is this guilt (not from God) or conviction (an indication of necessary course correction)?'
Guilt is generally that feeling you get when you compare yourself to others, judge yourself too harshly, or set an unrealistic expectation on your life that is not in line with what God has planned for you.
Guilt renders us victims of our surroundings, emotions and relationships.
Conviction empowers us to ask God to show us the needed course correction - and when we make the correction, the pressure lifts.
Feeling guilty? Let it go. It's not from God, and as a child of God, it's not FOR you. It's a distraction. Brush it off, and if you need to, speak the bible verses aloud.
Feeling convicted? Get into your bible and discover what God has to say - he'll provide you with answers.
Remember - Feeling guilty is a choice. Just say 'no'. Live free, and breathe easy.
So today I was engaged in a heated conversation with someone I love very much. It was a tough conversation, and I was working hard to keep my emotions in check, praying that I could get my heart across. I breathed an internal 'Jesus, help me!', and like a plane with a banner trailing behind, words started flitting through my mind...
“...the testimony of the Lord is sure, making wise the simple...”
And as our discussion continued, the fog lifted and an entire section of verses became clear:
“The law of the Lord is perfect, converting the soul. The testimony of the Lord is sure, making wise the simple. More to be desired are they than gold, yea, than much fine gold; sweeter also than honey and the honeycomb.”
I didn't lose my temper or my composure. The discussion was difficult, but profitable. The verses played like a sound track in my head, helping me stay focused, respectful, direct, honest and loving. Those verses (Psalm 19: 7,10) echoed in my head long after the conversation was over. And I was grateful, as I have been more and more this year, that I read my bible regularly.
I have a few of them. I especially like The Message bible, because while it's not an exact translation, its colloquial style makes the verses and stories easy to understand and apply. I like the 21st Century King James version, and the American Standard Version for memorizing verses and understand literal translation.
I'm grateful for websites like Biblegateway.com and Bible.cc and Bible.org for online bible sources.
And I use them all, frequently. Because my life flows smoother when I read the bible regularly and fill my mind with the verses.
I read my bible, because when I don't know what else to do, it's the perfect background music - filling my thoughts, helping me know what to do, what to say.
I read my bible, because when I think I know what to do and I ask God to show me, verses flood my mind that sometimes confirm, and sometimes correct my direction.
I read my bible because I trust that the One who created the universe knows a bit more than I do, and I'd like as much of that knowledge in my decision-making as possible. And He wrote a book about it. How's that for ultimate power?
I read my bible because I believe that God uses it to talk to my situation. My life. My heart. My family. My pain. My hurt. - and uses it to help me see the bigger picture that if He talks to my situation that lovingly, He wants me to share the hope that we don't have to figure out life all alone.
I went back to those verses tonight to see exactly what the entire section has to say. It's exactly what I needed to hear. And THAT is why I read my Bible.
The revelation of God is whole
and pulls our lives together.
The signposts of God are clear
and point out the right road.
The life-maps of God are right,
showing the way to joy.
The directions of God are plain
and easy on the eyes.
God's reputation is twenty-four-carat gold,
with a lifetime guarantee.
The decisions of Godare accurate
down to the nth degree.
God's Word is better than a diamond,
better than a diamond set between emeralds.
You'll like it better than strawberries in spring,
better than red, ripe strawberries.
Psalm 19:7-10 Message Bible
"We just don't have enough people, it looks like we're going to need to take turns volunteering." Wincing at her words, I put the dish towel down and picked up another dirty plate.
"Well, I'll be honest, it's not my favorite thing to do, but if we need to..." I finished washing the dish and rinsed it.
"Thanks, Rosalyn. Hopefully we'll get this worked out."
Our call ended and I looked down at the sink full of dishes. "Why?" I grumbled to God. "Of all the jobs I love to do, why do I have to do the one I just really struggle with?" Getting no answer, I finished the dinner dishes, still growling.
Later that night, I looked ahead on the calendar and sighed. Twice in one week! What was God trying to tell me? I sat on the couch and turned to Tom. "So, here's the deal. I need to help with childcare at MoPS, and we have nursery this week at church. Why is this so hard for me?"
Tom looked over at me, brow creased. "I just don't know why you hate it so much. I love watching the kids, they're great. And I don't know what God is trying to tell you. Maybe you should ask him."
That night, I prayed as I was heading to bed. Opening my bible, I said, "Lord, I really need to hear from you. What am I not getting here? Why am I so frustrated and angry at being asked to do such a simple job?"
My bible fell open and I looked at the page. The verses seemed to jump off of the page:
"If all you want is your own way, flirting with the world every chance you get, you end up enemies of God and his way. And do you suppose God doesn't care? The proverb has it that "he's a fiercely jealous lover." And what he gives in love is far better than anything else you'll find. It's common knowledge that "God goes against the willful proud; God gives grace to the willing humble." (Proverbs 3:34)
So let God work his will in you. Yell a loud no to the Devil and watch him scamper. Say a quiet yes to God and he'll be there in no time." (James 4:4a-8a MSG
And I knew. God asking me to care for the children was not his way of punishing me, or disciplining me. He was training me. It may be a job that I don't enjoy, but it wasn't about the job - it was about my heart. I had lost my way, looking with my eyes. I needed to refocus myself, not on the job, but on my heart. Was I so proud that I chose to reject a simple (yet important) job that didn't appeal to me?
Would I choose to be willing, to allow God to humble me? Would I respond to the gentle reminder that insisting on my own way pulled me further and further from him?
And so I prayed, asking for him to give me a humble, willing heart. And I still do. Because sometimes, it's not about the job he's asking us to do - it's about our attitude, our heart-thoughts, our willful pride versus our humble willingness.
Do you have a job that you've been asked to do and you're struggling with having a good attitude?
Let's work through it together - how do you get past yourself to the person God wants you to become?
"We want to live well, but our foremost efforts should be to help others live well."
(1 Corinthians 10:24b MSG)