January 22, 2006

Guilt No More

Today is one of those days when there's so much I could write... It's been a learning weekend.

Part of that was due to the marriage conference Trent & I attended. The conference was good; but most of my learning was where Nathan was concerned, since he was with us. I'll write about Adventures in Family Conferencing some other time.

Late last night Trent & I got into a conversation with my youngest brother's girlfriend's dad. I'll wait a bit while you process that connection.

[Muzak - "A Few of my Favorite Things" for jazz flute]
How sad is it that I've actually heard such a song? Unbelievable...

Anyway, Pete & Leah Humphreys are visiting for a few days, and Trent & I talked with Pete until after 1 a.m. this morning. Humphreys have a retreat for couples in leadership positions who are facing ministry burn-out. Last night turned into an impromptu session of sorts... I asked Pete for his thoughts and insights into some problems I've been wrestling with: a roadblock where dreaming is concerned and an unhealthy preoccupation with guilt.

I've known for a while that I try to use guilt as a motivator to get me to do things I think should be done. It frustrated me to find I couldn't make myself do things, so I figured if I could make myself feel bad enough about not doing them, I'd eventually give up and do them so the bad feelings would stop. This idea (should you consider it for yourself) is only good in theory. Actually doing it results in a life that can feel guilty about anything, anywhere, anytime - someone who often feels horrible, crushed under the weight of all they're not doing.

Pete told us last night that his understanding of the Bible is that, for those who believe and follow Jesus, there isn't guilt. There are moments of conviction, when I realize the difference between how I'm thinking or behaving and how God calls me to think/behave; but there is never a time that God seeks to beat me into a position of seeing how wrong I am and how bad I am. Paul wrote, "Therefore there is now no condemnation for those who are alive in Christ."

I've wrestled with this problem of guilt for decades, literally. Last night it just felt like the last of that old skin dropped away - I could almost hear the chink of chain dropping from my ankles.

To give you some indicator of how deep this has been for me... I keep mental lists of what actions seem to irritate or offend each person so I make sure I don't do them around that person and perhaps upset them. I would wear a jacket to the restroom so that I could tuck a book inside the coat under one of my arms and not have someone notice (I read everywhere, even if it's just for 10-15 seconds at a time). I would use three paper towels whenever I washed my hands in front of someone - two didn't get my hands dry, but more than three might cause someone to think I was being wasteful and not environmentally-friendly.

I'm awed by the capacity of the human brain if only because mine was trying to keep track of so much. This morning I already feel lighter... I know part of that is the relief I have where Nathan is concerned. I feel pretty passionate about the knowledge that Nathan's perception of God will be shaped in a large way by what he sees in and hears from me. Now I won't be reflecting some twisted perception of guilt to Nathan...

It's a good day.

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