The guilt of simply being human

I'm so thankful for the view out my kitchen window! Beautiful!

I’m so thankful for the view out my kitchen window! Beautiful!

Yesterday, after reading a Facebook message from someone I had unintentionally hurt, my stomach was in knots.

When I shared both the Facebook message and my guilt with my husband, he looked at me in surprise. “Jen, why do you feel guilty? You simply weren’t able to do what he needed. It wasn’t possible.”

But I still wrestled with the feeling of guilt.

The guilt of being merely human.

The guilt of thinking I should be able to do it ALL (in other words, of thinking I am like God [the oldest sin of all]).

The guilt of forgetting that I am completely incapable.

To deal with this kind of guilt, I needed a broader definition of sin than the one that defines it as intentional actions, thoughts, and words that “break the rules.” That is a very limited—and unbiblical—definition of “sin,” and it didn’t help me deal with my Facebook situation.

The New Living Translation of Romans 3:23 defines sin as “(falling) short of God’s glorious standard.”

I fell short with my friend—not because I wanted to, not even because I had another choice, but simply because I had no capability to meet his expectations. I’ve “fallen short” in some other areas as well lately, and, for reasons only God knows, He has made me sit for awhile in the discomfort of my own inadequacy, my own “falling short.” I have tried to mute the message, tried to distract myself with writing and meal prep and people and the radio, but uneasiness has burrowed into my soul, and my thoughts circle constantly around my feeling of guilt.

So this morning I took a long walk in the thick snow at the dog park. Two women were there when I arrived, but they soon left, and I was alone—with my thoughts.

Still wrestling.

Round I walked, breaking through the snow crust, doing battle in my mind, swinging like a pendulum from excuses to accusations.

On the third lap, I stopped. “God,” I said, “I want to prove myself right in this situation. I want to ‘feel’ right. And I have been doing a whole lot of talking in my own head trying to figure this out. But I can’t–because I’m not capable. I fall short—both of a complete understanding of this situation AND of any ability to fix it. I am only human. Help me to see myself—and then see YOU—as I should.”

“Please, God, I need You!”

Then, finally, rest came. I could admit my own inability, my own “falling short.” And I could glory in the fact that the God who loves me has NO limitations. He is not bound by time. His strength is unlimited. He does not run out of energy or patience or goodness. He never forgets, not ever. He never fails—not at anything He does.

He IS the glorious standard.

And He is fully aware that there is no way I can reach His standard. In fact, I think He gets tired of my thinking I can.

So when I let go of trying to reach His standard on my own, I see HIM and His grace far better.

And I am awed by the Glory!

I continued my walk, joyous now, rejoicing in the beauty, and just before I left I did what I could not have imagined doing twenty minutes earlier.

I fell back into an untouched patch of snow, gazed up at the tops of the trees, and made a snow angel!

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Grovel or Go? Lessons from Isaiah

Yes, PJ IS standing in an open car window--at least it wasn't in motion! I'm amazed--and grateful--that we've only had ONE trip to the emergency room with our little daredevil. I'm sure it won't be the last.

Too often I tell God what I want Him to do with me and for me. I guess there’s an acknowledgement of weakness in these kinds of prayers—I am, after all, admitting that I can’t make these things happen—but there is also a sense of pride. I may not have the strength to carry this out, but I know what the best course of action is.

Today I discovered I even tell God what to do in regard to my sin. This morning I prayed, “Lord, reveal my sin to me. Help me to know the ways I am straying from you.”

I’m not knocking this kind of prayer, and I’m trusting that the Holy Spirit interprets it for me, but as I studied a passage in Isaiah today, I realized that this prayer is based on a lot of ignorance. If God really DID show me the depths of my sinfulness, I would be crushed, as Isaiah was when he was in the presence of God. Overwhelmed, his only understanding in that moment was of his own dirtiness in the presence of the completely clean and holy God. “Woe is me! For I am lost;” he said, “for I am a man of unclean lips, and I dwell in the midst of a people of unclean lips; for my eyes have seen the King, the Lord of hosts!”

Regarding this passage, R.C. Sproul comments that this is a rare occurrence: God does not often crush us with a full picture of our sinfulness. Instead He reveals it bit by bit, in His own time and plan, as it is necessary and good for us.

That leads me to examine the motives behind my “Show me my sins” prayers. Am I asking, perhaps, out of a heart that still hopes to do penance, to somehow pay for my own sins, to show that I am truly sorry for them, and in this sorrow, to gain some acceptance?

Again, Isaiah’s example helps me. Isaiah was not asked to do penance for his sinfulness. Instead GOD sent an angel with a burning coal to purify Isaiah.

He did the same for me, with the death of Christ. I cannot accomplish my own purification, and therefore, He doesn’t ask me to. He did and does that Himself.

“…your guilt is taken away, and your sin atoned for.”

Even knowing this, KNOWING that Christ paid for my sin, I have a tendency to grovel in it. I mistakenly think this is true sorrow, when it is really self-serving.

But that’s also not what Isaiah did. After God pronounced him clean, God immediately asked if Isaiah was ready to go to work. “Whom shall I send, and who will go for us?”

And Isaiah didn’t respond as I often do. “Hold on, Lord, I’m still processing how awful I am. I’m still overwhelmed with what I did (or said or thought).”

No, Isaiah IMMEDIATELY answers, “Here am I! Send me.”

This is not only a statement of willingness but of confidence. Sproul writes that if Isaiah had said “Here I am,” he would merely have been making a statement of readiness, but the inverted structure—“Here AM I!“—speaks of Isaiah’s new view of himself. The Lord had taken him through an understanding of Isaiah’s own unworthiness and the Lord’s grace, and Isaiah came out of that with a new sense of self-worth as a creation and servant of God.

Wow!

“Lord, I am Yours. Reveal to me what you want me to know, not so I can grovel but so that You may direct me in the ways You want me to go. Bottom line, Lord, here am I, Your creation, purified, qualified, and commissioned. Do Your will, Your best, with me.”

My Enough

The earmuffs are headphones, the pink shades are, well, shades," and the little man is pretending he is a disc jockey playing some tunes. One of our many "jam" sessions.

11/10/11  I yelled at Maddie this morning. No words, just a primal scream of frustration, eyes wild and wide (I was facing the bathroom mirror and saw myself). It was a “scream or throw something” moment. It was–horrific realization–a moment when I could imagine smacking her, hard. The scream scraped my throat. My ab muscles ached when it was done. Maddie, already in tears before it started, was, of course, in bigger tears when it finished.

I can make excuses: Dave’s out of town; I’m running ragged trying to get all six kids to the three different schools they attend; Maddie had another of her wailing, sobbing mornings because her pants actually touch her body and then the toothpaste stung her lip; I’m battling a cold that makes my head feel like toilet paper is scratching the inside of my ears. But. I. Screamed. At. My. Child.

There is no excuse for that.

I told Maddie I was sorry, I told everybody I was sorry (after all, they’d all heard it), we moved on, we eventually got out the door (though not without more grumbling on my part about hurrying and putting shoes on and getting out to the car), and we made it to our carpool location on time. But the morning felt ruined.

Before they got out of the car, I asked them if I could pray. “Oh, Lord, I blew it this morning,” I said. “Please heal my children’s hearts from the damage I caused. Please heal me. Thank You that You do not lose patience.”

“It’s okay, Mom,” Em said, and I thanked her, though I also said it wasn’t really ok. I held Maddie in a long hug before sending them off to the other van. I took Patrick to school, came home, and lay flat on my face on the library rug.

It took awhile to shut off my tumbling thoughts, to stop the battle going on in my head between penance and excuses. It took the Holy Spirit’s gentle “Shut up” for me to be still, to listen.

“You’re weary and burdened. Come to me.”

“You’ve confessed your sin. I am faithful. I will forgive and cleanse and change you.”

“You’re a new creature. You let the old, dead one rise up like a shrieking zombie this morning, and you sure didn’t seek Me in the midst of the trial, but I am still making you new. I will complete what I have begun in you.”

“Beating yourself up will not pay for your wrongdoing. I paid for it, and I will take care of it now.”

“How can you help Maddie with her clothing issues? Talk with Me about that.”

“I can and will make good from this. Learn more about Me. That will renew you.”

I lay on the rug for several more minutes, feeling limp but cleaned out, able to see more clearly what led to my zombie shriek.

I had gotten all my gears oiled and ready, scheduled this morning down to the minute, and thought of my children like cogs in a machine and myself as the master mechanic.

I’d begun to think, “Yeah, I can do this! A little issue here, little issue here. I’ve got it. I can handle it.”

Uh, obviously, no, I couldn’t. My system rested on ME, and I broke down this morning. Sooner or later I always will, so any plan that rests on my ability or character fails because I fail. I’m human.

Definition of human: “messed up.”

This would all be utterly hopeless if I did not have someone other than a human to rely on, Someone SUPER human, Someone good through and through, perfect to the core.

My God is the only one who does not fail. Therefore, He is the only reliable source of hope.

Only one source of hope. Not a whole bunch of systems and backup plans and “go-to” components.

It sounds a little like a pipe dream, like a machine that looks magnificent but doesn’t function. It sounds unreliable. It’s not enough to rely on.

But it IS—because the source of the hope is enough. Hope in God does not disappoint because HE does not disappoint.

Christ in me, the hope of glory. Christ in me, my All in All.

Christ in me, my ENOUGH.

Note: This was from last week. This morning I realized, with great gratitude, that we have had no tears about clothes for three straight morning!