Tag Archives: guilt

Retreat to Freedom

24 Nov

I declared Friday a personal retreat. My husband was out of town, the temperature dropped below Karo, and amazingly, I had nothing on my calendar. Posole simmered in the crockpot beside a bowl of homemade Chex Mix and percolating cider. A light dusting of snow on icy streets created a perfect homebound day.

Of course, there’s always a dose of reality in any idyllic scene. I brought our old birddog, Jax, out of the 21o
air, because his twisted arthritic feet don’t do well in the cold. He’s a big outside dog; I had no idea he could produce so much poop. (Sigh) Ah, well. His comfort was worth cleaning the sunroom floor.

My goal for the day was to stay with whatever God showed me in my daily reading until I really got it. Lately, as I read Scripture, I’d write the teaching I believe the Holy Spirit had for me, pray, and then jump into my day without meditating. I hadn’t taken time to follow that teaching to its logical and practical conclusion so I wasn’t seeing the change I desired.

Here’s what God showed me: Now the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom (2 Corinthians 3:17 ESV).

I realized I wanted to do the retreat “right” and not waste the rare day I had to spend entirely with God. A very strong impression quickly tumbled over that thought; God wanted me to celebrate and enjoy the day. Today wasn’t about getting it right; it was about freedom. Instant tears of gratitude and praise blurred my vision. My tears pointed me to a tender place not totally healed. I really want to live in freedom, but one might suppose I prefer guilt.

I immediately thought of Romans, which probably contains more theology per line than most books in the Bible. I spent at least an hour in the already underlined fifth through eighth chapters, proof that I didn’t quite get it the first ___ (how many?) times.

Wow. So much there, but one verse really jumped out at me, “But now we are released from the law, having died to that which held us captive, so that we serve in the new way of the Spirit and not in the old way of the written code” (Romans 7:6 ESV).

Life seems easier when I can check off a list—and there’s nothing wrong with a list. There’s nothing wrong with the Law. It’s knowing what I should do that creates the desire within me to do the opposite. (See Romans 7:7ff.) My flesh wars against my mind. Like Paul, there are times when I cry out, “Wretched [person] that I am! Who will rescue me from this body of death?” (Romans 7:24 NRSV).

I’m extremely grateful that Paul didn’t stop there. I don’t think anything could have kept him from speaking those next words. Once again, I want to shout with Paul, “Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord. . . There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus (Romans 7:25a; 8:1 NRSV).

With God’s help, I will live in obedience to Him and not to self-imposed bondage. I’m usually a joyful person, but sometimes I just put on that old yoke to see if it still fits. I need to remember another bit of wisdom from Paul.

“For freedom Christ has set us free; stand firm therefore, and do not submit again to a yoke of slavery” (Galatians 5:1 ESV)

I had a freedom-filled day celebrating God’s word, good food, texting, and cuddling with Sunshine. I even finished my mystery. I felt refreshed and deeply satisfied. My prayer is that you carve out some time, so you too can retreat to freedom.

Forgiving Myself

14 Sep

“You must forgive yourself.” I’ve heard those words more than once. Maybe you have too.

I really enjoy the Patrick Bowers thrillers by Steven James. In his fifth book, The Queen, Bowers’ stepdaughter struggles with guilt. Her psychiatrist tells her, “You have to learn to forgive yourself.” Tessa threatens to break his glass coffee table, and then makes a profound statement. “Look, if I break this thing, you can forgive the debt I owe you if you want, or you can make me pay for it, but how can I forgive myself for the debt that I owe you?”

 Until I read that novel, I assumed I should/could forgive myself. However, I’ve come to understand that I have no power to cancel a debt I owe to another, nor can I pardon or excuse my wrong behavior. However, I can pursue forgiveness. I can humbly apologize, ask forgiveness, and where possible, make restitution. But there’s more.

David’s story reminds me of the heart of any offense. You remember David the teenage shepherd who slew Goliath. He grew up to be a mighty warrior king who surrendered to adultery and murder (2 Samuel 11, 12). Finally repentant and broken, David composed Psalm 51.

“Have mercy on me, O God, according to your steadfast love; according to your abundant mercy blot out my transgressions. Wash me thoroughly from my iniquity, and cleanse me from my sin. For I know my transgressions, and my sin is ever before me. Against you, you alone, have I sinned, and done what is evil in your sight, so that you are justified in your sentence and blameless when you pass judgment” (Psalm 51:1–4 NRSV).

Although we hurt others, we sin against God. Yet we have God’s merciful promise, “If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness” (1 John 1:9 NKJV).

So why can’t we get past it? Perhaps it happened long ago, but the shame, guilt, and humiliation remains a festering wound of unworthiness. How can I forgive myself?

I find only one answer:  I can’t. I have no power to forgive myself. Instead, I need to accept the forgiveness that God offers in Jesus Christ. God forgave David, therefore, He can also forgive me and “restore to me the joy of [His] salvation (Psalm 51:12a).

“ Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus” (Romans 8:1 NIV). If I believe it, I will joyfully live it.

I close with wisdom from Andrée Seu, who wrote the following blogMonday, October 5th, 2009 | 7:47 AM

An Insomniac’s Psalm 103: Verse 11 “For as high as the heavens are above the earth, so great is his steadfast love toward those who fear him.”

The Christians I admire most—and I know precious few of them—are those whom I can see are so confident of God’s undeserved love that they are not constantly revisiting their sin or crime, but they have moved on with their lives and have peace and joy. Oh, if the matter of their past comes up, they will not deny it, and will be the first to call it evil. But you will not suck them into a morbid dwelling on it.

I pray we will live courageously “confident of God’s undeserved love.”

Relationship Repair

15 Jun

The question is not if a relationship will need repair, but when will a relationship need repair. Only superficial acquaintances avoid conflict. We can stick to subjects such as food or fashion, golf or fishing, and never have a cross word. However, if we want to go deeper than the weather, we’ll eventually find points of conflict.

We grow up with rules, spoken and spoken, in our family of origin. There are certain topics we don’t discuss, certain emotions we don’t express, and secrets we don’t acknowledge. We may think, “If you love me, you’ll never make me feel guilty. That was my father’s favorite weapon.” Then when a mate or friend has a legitimate complaint about the relationship, we feel betrayed, unloved, and angry.

The same is true of unspoken expectations. Many couples have told me, “If he/she loved me, he/she would know what I need. If I have to ask, it seems forced and artificial. What’s the point?” Asking for what we need is an important skill anyone can learn.

A healthy relationship is based on love, trust, and growth. It will offer honesty, compassion, forgiveness, respect, and mutual responsibility for maintaining the relationship. If one person walks on eggshells and the other feels free to explode in anger, the relationship may not survive.

How then can we quickly repair relationships? Repair depends on the level of offense or pain. The “secret” is our attitude. First, we can simply overlook some things, realizing fatigue, stress, or even low blood sugar can make us grouchy. Maybe it’s not that important. Love and let it go.

And above all things have fervent love for one another, for “love will cover a multitude of sins.” (1 Peter 4:8 quoting Prov. 10:12 NKJV).

Second, the issue or offense is irritating and important but not deeply meaningful. However, it could become a more serious problem if we don’t address it. It’s time for a simple to understand, but difficult to practice skill: The I Message. I’ve taught elementary students to use this simple, formula to express needs.

I FEEL (Use specific words to describe emotions: angry, confused, disappointed, attacked).
WHEN (Describe the upsetting behavior without character assassination or blame).
I NEED (a response from you, help with, a different tone of voice, eye contact. Be specific), please.

In a usually positive relationship, intimacy increases when we’re able to express our needs and feel heard and respected. Once again, attitude is key.
“Speaking the truth in love, we will grow to become in every respect the mature body of him who is the head, that is, Christ” (Ephesians 4:15NIV).

A third category is serious, painful, and threatens the relationship if ignored. It may be a flaw in the other person or touch a deeply held belief or fear resulting from a previous relationship or family of origin. This response is best thought out and, if possible, prepared in advance. Examine the source of such a powerful response and be ready to explain it. Then without blame, express your feelings, what the issue represents, and ask for compassion and understanding. The greatest success comes when both parties accept responsibility for their part and value the relationship.

“Do nothing from selfishness or empty conceit, but with humility of mind regard one another as more important than yourselves; do not merely look out for your own personal interests, but also for the interests of others” (Philippians 2:3–4 NASB95).

With God’s help, we can repair relationships quickly.

Please share comments, questions, and/or how these tips worked for you. You can encourage and bless others with your response.