Self-Hatred, Legalism, and Grace, Grace, Grace

 

I distinctly remember sitting on Lindsay T.’s couch on July 4, 2013, drinking from a cheap Strawberry Daquiri Seagram’s bottle.  “I don’t know if God loves me,” Lindsay admitted.  We had recently upgraded our acquaintanceship to friendship, and this conversation was a milestone.  “God loves me when I’m good,” I responded.  “But deep down I’m pretty sure He’s just waiting to give up on me if I screw up.”

Just two years later when I graduated from seminary, everything had changed.

I spent three years hearing my professors say things like, “God is not the god of karma, but the God of grace,” and “It is grace that justifies us, sanctifies us, AND glorifies us,” and “When I get to heaven and God asks why I deserve to be there, I’ll just shake my head and whisper, ‘Jesus.'”  I spent three years in a church that offered weekly Communion so that we never forgot where our strength comes from.  I spent three years in a small group where we argued about abortion and gay marriage and Islam and transsexuality and feminism in safety and love.  I spent three years befriending counselors who were delighted to discover my darkest secrets and shared their own with me.  I was spoiled with grace.

But then I moved home.  The problem with leaving your hometown and changing is that when you return…you revert to your old mental and emotional habits.  Or at least, I do.  Who was I before I learned to trust in God’s unconditional love?  I was the Good Girl.  I measured my worth in my modesty, I argued people into heaven, and I covered my possessions in simplistic Christian statements.  I was determined to earn people’s approval.  I was determined to earn God’s approval.  I knew how to work the system, and honestly, it was comforting.  Legalism is nothing if not controlling, and I am good at controlling things.   Continue reading

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Lenten Reflections: Humility

Anita at Feeling the Light is emailing out contemplative prompts throughout this year’s season of Lent.  If you are interested in delving into your own spiritual formation, feel free to take these prompts and answer them for yourselves!

See the poem below.  Perhaps meditate on it, see what arises, then write.

Te Deum by Charles Reznikoff, 1894-1976

Not because of victories
I sing,
having none,
but for the common sunshine,
the breeze,
the largess of the spring.

Not for victory
but for the day’s work done
as well as I was able;
not for a seat upon the dais
but at the common table.

[Sidenote: I just found out that the Greek Easter is later than the one in the United States, so the Greek Lenten season doesn’t begin until March 14.  I think these spiritual formation prompts will be like a pre-Lent spiritual preparation for me, and then when real Lent happens, I will focus on the physical aspect of not eating meat like the rest of the Greeks who will fast.  …Will I not eat meat??  I don’t know.  I kind of want to, but MEAT.]


Okay, so Reznikoff’s poem.   Continue reading

Fill These Hearts by Christopher West

Ten pages in, I knew Fill These Hearts would be at the top of my favorite books lists.  Few other Christian books feel so human; West is deeply in touch with the longings of humanity as well as our hope.  Every sentence went straight to my heart, and I found myself excited to live, excited to be human, excited to admit my desires in hope of my destiny.

The main premise is that we all have universal longings–for meaning, for companionship, for eternal ecstasy and bliss.  We know we want those things, and we know that this life so rarely fulfills us.  In the face of thwarted desire, West suggests that we react in one of three ways:  1) the starvation diet, wherein we pretend we don’t care about those desires, 2) the fast food diet, wherein we try to fulfill our desires through unhealthy means, and 3) the banquet, wherein we lean into our desires and let them point us to God and his goodness.

I used to fall into the starvation diet category, miserable but in control.  I was leery of people who indulged in their desires and arrogantly called them “sinners.”  The past few years, thanks to mentors, books, and counseling sessions, I am learning to embrace the banquet mindset.  I’m so glad West wrote this book (which embraces both theology and pop culture–my favorite!) to give language to my emotions.  More than most books I’ve read, I hope everyone reads this one!  Continue reading