Tuesday, September 04, 2012

Guilt, Grief, and Stuff

Do you ever feel guilty?  I go through times in life when I feel guilty all the time. 

1.having committed an offense, crime, violation, or wrong,especially against moral or penal law; justly subject to acertain accusation or penalty; culpable: The jury found her guilty of murder.
2.characterized by, connected with, or involving guiltguilty intent.
3.having or showing a sense of guilt,  whether real or imagined: a guilty conscience.

There are lots of areas where a feeling of guilt rises up and attacks me.  Just to name a few that I have dealt with this week: the care I give our finances, providing quality time for my daughter, not wanting to clean/cook/care for our home and, at times, just having a healthy, happy child makes me feel guilty.  There are so many with children who are hurting or sick.  It just breaks my heart. 

However there is one area that I have battled with on and off since 2005.  I have been wrestling with whether or not this recent bout it is guilt or something more.  Is it an urging, a persistent beating in my heart that I need to make a change?  It has to do with my stuff and my desire for more stuff.  

Personally, I did not used to consider myself materialistic.  To me a materialistic person is not happy unless they have the best and newest clothes/toys/cars/stuff around.  Granted I do want and like new things, a lot but I don't have to have them.  Sure, I would love a new purse right now.  I find myself thinking about all the features I would like in one.  I would like a few new shirts and a new pair of pants.  I love shoes and jewelry but that is all normal, right?  These things that are OK to want, right?  Then I see a picture like this:

Recently this picture was shown at our church.  The Pastor went on to say that on his last trip to Africa he actually met families that had so little food they had to pick which of their children to feed and which to let die of starvation because if they tried to split it among all of the children they would all die.  I am nauseous just having to type that. 

Then I remember pictures I took, like this:

 These are from India in 2007. 

I remember experiencing loads of guilt the first time I returned from India in 2005.  We came back right before Christmas and I remember hating myself for how I lived and the over the top, gimme gimme Christmas season I had come back to.  God was speaking to me, showing me how little people live on and how much joy they had in the midst of it.  I remember being angry at commercials and then being angry at my own selfishness.  I had a tremendous amount of guilt back then because I was confronted with my own life.  Sure, it was easier to be angry with the rest of the country for the ridiculous overindulgence displayed on every TV, billboard, and website but when it was quiet and I was alone I had to look in the mirror and face the fact that the week before I had gone to India I was a very active participant in the whole gimme gimme scene.  Something that adds another twist to this is that my love language is Gifts.  

Yep, that’s right.  I don’t know if this was sparked long ago when my dad would travel and then come back with a little something for me from his trips, but in my mind a gift = thinking of me; a reminder that I mattered enough to spend the time and money choosing a gift.  Luckily for my selfish self, the feelings of guilt from my first trip and even the second began to wane as I got used to living as an American again.  Every now and then it would come up but I was able to quiet it by quoting pastors and preachers I have heard talk about how God wants to bless us and that we are to have a full life.  There are lots of verses that can be interpreted that way, so why, deep down inside, was/am I still so uneasy about fully believing that application? 

Recently, I have started to have another feeling.  Yes, guilt over the first few things I mentioned will rise up every now and then but this was something much deeper than guilt.  I haven’t known what to call it until recently.  I believe it is grief. 
1.keen mental suffering or distress over affliction or loss; sharp sorrow;
painful regret.
2.a cause or occasion of keen distress or sorrow.

Sharp sorrow.  I believe God is bringing me to a place of sharp sorrow for how I choose to live.  I am traveling through life trying to amass money, friends, security, and new apple devices.  I want to buy expensive clothes, electronics, THINGS, all for a body that will be dust again, soon.  At times I would try to appease the feeling of grief by reminding God that support a child in India and I tithe to a church that reaches out in missions… I mean, what can I do I am only one person, right?  But as soon as I would think that I would feel the quote from Mother Teresa surface deep in my heart…

“If you can't feed a hundred people, then feed just one.” 

There are people who haven’t had enough to eat in my city.  Why not start there?  There are people who do not have anything to wear while my closet is full.  Why not clothe them?  Slowly I could feel my heart starting to break.  Then I began reading Crazy Love by Francis Chan and listening to some of his podcasts.  He said, while talking about suffering in the world, that people like to say “God, why do you let people starve and children suffer?!” Then Chan said that he is afraid that we will get to heaven God will look at us and say “I left you on that earth to make a difference, why did you let people starve and children suffer?!”  What a sobering and heartbreaking thought.

James 2:15-17 If a brother or sister is naked and destitute of daily food,  and one of you says to them, “Depart in peace, be warmed and filled,” but you do not give them the things which are needed for the body, what does it profit?  Thus also faith by itself, if it does not have works, is dead.           

After reading numerous verses about how our faith should be combined with Godly works (not working for our salvation, but working because we love our Savior and the people HE loves) I find that I literally cannot sit still any longer.  Today my daughter and I volunteered our time at a local clothing bank (http://www.gbc-cg.org/seekinggrace/files/sg_Ministries_LoveCoversAll.html).  It was wonderful.  It felt so good to be there.  Not in a prideful, look at what I am doing way, but in a Yes! THIS is the start of following hard after the things that Christ has for me, kind of way.  The woman who was running it kept referring to the ministry as God’s and not hers because she already gets it.  That He invites US to be a part of HIS thing, not the other way around.  These people are living out the gospel in a real and tangible way, the way He calls us to live, all because of their love for Jesus.  I want in on it!

I do wonder if this feeling of grief will ever leave me.  I doubt it.  I believe that God is grieved daily by choices I make with this VAPOR of a life that I have to live.  I do not want to stand before Him when my time on earth is done and tell him that I thought that having the nicest clothing was more important than clothing HIM, and that eating in excess was more important than feeding HIM.  God please guide my every step and what I teach my daughter so that one day I can stand before you and hear “well done, good and faithful servant.”

34 Then the King will say to those on His right hand, ‘Come, you blessed of My Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world: 35 for I was hungry and you gave Me food; I was thirsty and you gave Me drink; I was a stranger and you took Me in; 36 I was naked and you clothed Me; I was sick and you visited Me; I was in prison and you came to Me.’
37 “Then the righteous will answer Him, saying, ‘Lord, when did we see You hungry and feed You, or thirsty and give You drink? 38 When did we see You a stranger and take You in, or naked and clothe You? 39 Or when did we see You sick, or in prison, and come to You?’ 40 And the King will answer and say to them, ‘Assuredly, I say to you, inasmuch as you did it to one of the least of these My brethren, you did it to Me.’                                                                  Matthew 25:34-40

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