Friday, January 7, 2011

How God uses the Gun of Guilt in our Hunt for Holiness

by Gina Welborn

With the advent of the new year came another month of blog posts for Inkies to sign up for. Now since I rather like Self-Help days, I figured why not write about goals this Friday (today) since the day was open. After all, Linda Goodnight's guest blog last month rather inspired me.

That was Monday morning.

Monday night, God gave me His 2011 "To Do" List for me. Umm. I didn't mind making my own "To Do" list. Not too keen on someone else making one for me.

Task #1 was something I was supposed to do before Thanksgiving. Only I didn’t do it because...well, I figured eventually I’d forget about doing it because my guilt wanted me to. I’m really a fabulous forgetter. Not because I have five children. They're merely covenient blames.

Unfortunately, God is a nagger. (That's me paraphrasing Philipians 1:6.)

In fact, for the week prior to Monday, the last thing I’d think about before going to bed and the first thing when I got up in the morning was Task #1 (even though I didn' t know it was God's Task #1 for me yet). The more I knew what God wanted me to do, the more I didn't want to do it.

Remember what I said about God being a nagger? That's because He cares more about my heart than my pride. (He feels the same about you.) Thus I’m writing this blog post instead of the one about goals because He kept me awake Monday night until I agreed to do what He wanted.

I suppose I ought to start at the beginning.

Or maybe the beginning of the end since that'll make this post a bit shorter.

In November, a copy of Fellowship of the Burning Heart: A Collection of Sermons by A.W. Tozer showed up in my house. I started reading it. Sermon 9 is called “Three Faithful Wounds.” Lady Julian lived over 600 years ago in Norwich, England. She wrote one book. In it, she talks about the three wounds she fervently prayed God would give her.

“I want Thee to wound me with the wound of contrition, and then I want Thee to wound me with the wound of compassion, and then I want Thee to wound me with the wound of very longing after God.”

I want a heart like hers.

So I began fervently praying that too.

The wound of contrition is one that “has captured us, defeated us, taken the moral fight out of us, self-defense from us.” Tozer further says, “As long as a person would rather be happy than holy, he or she is an unrepentant man. As soon as this realization hits our conscience, we don’t care whether we are happy or not. We want to be right with God, but we need...to be hit with our conscience, smitten, wounded within, until contrition becomes a part of our life.”

Now since I tend to read more than one book at a time, I also was reading Ryan Dobson’s Be Intolerant Because Somethings Are Just Stupid. The main point of his book was speak the truth, but speak it in love. That realization took root in my conscience.

Around this time, Melanie Dickerson shared about a scathing review on her book, The Healer’s Apprentice. I read the review and realized even though I understood that the reviewer taking offense to aspects of the book wasn’t wrong (it was her opinion, after all), how she went about sharing her review was horribly wrong. And that’s when God used a chunk of the cross to give me a wound of contrition.

Last spring I shared with one of my writing groups my “review” of Deeanne Gist’s A Bride in the Bargain. Granted I still have issue with the Christian hero’s unrepentant ungodly behavior, but my means of sharing my offense was big-time wrong. Compounding that was my statement to one of the editors that I wouldn’t share my review publicly. I complained about the book to anyone who would listen...and even a few who didn’t. LOL. Eventually I posted my review here on Inkwell. At the wishes of my fellow Inkies, I eventually removed it once I realized standing up for my view wasn’t more important than the relationships with those ladies. Of course at that time, I didn’t think what I’d said was wrong because I felt my opinion about the book was right.

God took me through Tozer, Dobson, Melanie’s review, and losing a handful of Inkwell members to show me no matter how right my opinion is, if I don’t speak it in love, I’m in the wrong.

I was wrong.

I wasn’t intolerant in love. I was too determined to argue my point...until I'd convinced enough people to agree with me. And since enough weren't agreeing with me, I doubled up on arguing. Uggh.

I'm much happier when I don't realize the character flaws I have.

Thanks, God, for making me miserable.

For years I’ve said life was too short to live with guilt. I’ve been wrong in that too. Tozer explained it best when he said, “Progress in the spiritual life brings a milder but deep sorrow that remembers the guilt. We will never be where we should be until we cease to hunt after happiness and begin to hunt for holiness.” I need guilt to remind me who I’ve been and what God had forgiven me of and who am I now in Christ. I need to still carry the heartbreak over my sin even though I’ve been forgiven of that sin.

So this very long explanation is my apology for the lack of love in how I shared my review of the book. I’m also grieved it took me so long to finally obey God and share about my wound of contrition.

But that’s where the wound of compassion comes in. The wound of compassion enables me to feel the way Jesus did about people. To realize the words I speak can breathe live or death on people. Or as Augustine said, “You must then avoid being too harsh in your words, and should they escape your lips, let those same lips not be ashamed to heal the wounds they have caused.”

The wound of longing after God won’t permit me to be happy in my forgetfulness or in my ever-fading guilt. Thank God I'm wholly forgiven, but that doesn't let me off the hook. I have to confess. I want to be more like Him, and that’s the heart of why I’m being obedient in sharing this with you.

I'd much rather be holy than happy.

Even at the cost of my pride.

Question of the Day: What has God used in the past to bring you to the point of repentance? What wound of contrition can you praise God for? And, while you don't have to share this, what is holding you back from admitting your guilt in a broken relationship?

~Gina
be light. be love. believe.

18 comments:

  1. I got to see this earlier this week, and I'm so pleased that Gina had the courage and transparency to write this (I don't like to use the word "proud" because although this seems to be well-accepted in American Christianity, the Bible actually calls is a sin.)

    Having all week to think about it, though, I've been giving more consideration to some of the words. The word "guilt" makes me think harder. The Bible says God "convicts". I suppose that pretty much translates to guilt, but Satan can also use guilt to bring us down and shame us and make us feel like less than precious children of God. We all need to learn to respond to God's prompting without falling into guilt and condemnation that would weigh us down.

    The other word I'm wondering about is "nagging." I know I don't like it when my husband uses that word, especially when I bring up something periodically because it's important to me. Sometimes "nagging" seems to be more about his perception.

    What can I say? I'm a word person.

    All that said, I think that Gina's attitude is great, and this has been a path of healing and growing. I know that God has great plans for her life.

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  2. I was just going to leave a nice note of encouragement for you Gina, but then you had to go and assign us some soul-searching. Now why'd you go and do that :)

    I'm stealing this from Anita Mae:

    (((((((GINA)))))))))

    May your words, in turn, prod and poke all who read this, where God has been 'strongly suggesting'

    I want to be at the front of the line.

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  3. Okay, I'll probably continue thinking about this post throughout the day. It really is powerful. I've been meaningn to read Tozer and now it is definitely on my to do soon list.

    Recently God used a combination of a Karen Kingsbury book, a Joyce Meyers book, and my prayer counseling to help me understand better what has gone wrong in my marriage and what my part (yes, it has been partly me) has been. Will be sharing more in upcoming posts.

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  4. Bravo, Gina. I know that posting this was terribly difficult. You have more control over your flesh/pride than I typically do. I think your obedience to the word will bring healing to a lot of hearts though.

    And to do the assignment:
    God's brought me to the point of repentence in lots of way.
    Prayer, preaching, Bible reading, even reading a novel, or dare I say it--a blog post.

    Hugs,
    Lisa

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  5. God used an angry, violent, strong-willed child to bring me to repentance. Me. Not her. Not until after I had repented of not loving her and lived that out for several years. I couldn't control or fix her, I could only control my responses to who she was and what she did. It was an incredibly humbling experience to have to walk through, for while most of her issues came out in the privacy of our home, some came out in public. And some people didn't understand my responses to her. Talk about pride taking a hit! She was truly my wound of contrition!

    But the Lord eventually blessed that in me with a change in her heart. A change I didn't force. A change that was all Him. And yet I was greatly changed in the process.

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  6. Thanks Gina for sharing. I've also been adamant in my dislike of at least one book and let my voice be heard over the loudspeaker... I had to make myself stop!!

    It wasn't so much the review that I wrote, but my need to broadcast my opinion that showed me that something was amiss in my world.

    I'm learning that I don't have to be "right" all the time.

    Anne, thank you for sharing your journey with a difficult child. What an encouragement! Bless you!

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  7. Gina, every time I read this post I'm reminded of 2 Cor. 7:11, "For observe this very thing, that you sorrowed in a godly manner: What diligence it produced in you, what clearing of yourselves, what indignation, what fear, what vehement desire, what zeal, what vindication! In all things you proved yourselves to be clear in this matter."
    Repentance is a blessing. Correction from heaven is good. God corrects those He loves. What brings me to repentance? Every time I'm reminded of the goodness and mercy of God I realize just how hard-hearted, ungrateful, and carnally minded I am most of the time.
    Bless you, Gina, for your boldness and obedience.

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  8. (((((Gina))))) and a hug to Deb, too for hugging Gina.

    In 2009 I wrote a review on my own blog which really did nag me all 2010. It was a Harlequin Historical Christmas anthology which I was given by one of the authors to review. Now a bit of background here... I try not to relay any negative thoughts into my reviews but sometimes I do if I feel strongly about it. That has only happened three times and this was one of them. My review mentioned the start of one novella as depressing. The heroine was at a low point and the first few pages seemed to be an unending backstory of her downward slide. I said something to the effect that I read Christmas stories for the uplifting feeling of hope and joy, of family and friends, etc. I wanted to be lifted out of my own world and not brought lower into someone elses.

    Well, throughout 2010 I thought of those words. Or maybe it was God reminding me of them.

    Every time I read a book that started with the low point of a character where there's nowhere to go but up, I thought of that other review.

    And every time I began to write a story where the character is at a low point, I kicked myself.

    Because that's the logical place to start a book. Especially at Christmas. Would the Christmas story be improved if it started in a sinless world? If Mary and Joseph were safely ensconced in a 5 star hotel for the big event? If Jesus was born at 2 o'clock on a bright sunny day?

    Nope.

    A few wks ago in the middle of my Christmas Song Spotlight series I posted an apology to the 3 authors I felt I'd slighted in my review the year before. Yes, only 1 author had 'disturbed' me, but all 3 were mentioned in the review so I felt I owed them all an apology.

    Now I can't say there was a cataclysmic event which triggered this change of heart on my part. But I definitely felt the prodding.

    Thanks for baring your heart on your sleeve, Gina.

    Anita Mae.

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  9. Brava Gina,
    You are one brave woman and I am grateful that you are being so courageous. We all need to remember what you quoted from Augustine. “You must then avoid being too harsh in your words, and should they escape your lips, let those same lips not be ashamed to heal the wounds they have caused.”

    I know, Gina that you know a bit of the struggle I’ve had with raising a child to adulthood who has complicated mental health issues. I remember when you lifted our family in prayer. I think I learned more about the power of harsh words than I ever wanted to know throughout the extended years of my daughter’s unrelenting illness and why I am so very sensitive to the way others speak to each other. God has taught me and continues to teach me about the power of lifting others up and that there is no room for growth if pride needs its ego stroked.

    ((((HUGS))))

    Jilly

    What is uttered from the heart alone, Will win the hearts of others to our own. ~ Johann Wolfgang von Goethe

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  10. I think I'm getting misty here.

    I am. How amazing is God in how he serves out discipline and blessing with the same hand.

    I know that's a grammatical failure but you get the point.

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  11. Anne, for several years I struggled with my relationship with my oldest daughter. Seems like all we did was fight. I kept thinking if she'd change, things would get better. Instead God told me the person who had to change was me.

    While our relationship isn't perfect and we still have moments of conflict, it's much much much better not. Because I changed my attitude toward her. In fact, she was the one I had the most fun Christmas shopping for. I kept finding things I knew she'd like because I finally had taken time to get to know her...instead of expecting her to be something she wasn't.

    Niki, thanks for that verse. Wow.

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  12. Anita, even after I'd read that sermon of Tozer's and Dobson's book, it took reading Melanie's review for it all to connect.

    Do I think it's wrong to give a book a not-so-great review?

    No.

    But we still ought to be gracious in our criticism. That's not always easy.

    On my desk is a book I agreed to be an influencer for. Hmm. It's been several months since I read it and I still haven't written a review. Not that the book was bad. It was merely...boring. So I've been trying to figure out if the book was actually really boring or did I have such high expectations that it was destined to let me down? Hmm.

    I read an ABA romance last night. Think serial story. Or three novellas merged into one novel with a secondary character POV bridging the stories. Great concept. Lackluster execution. Part of that was because the 6 lead characters didn't behave consistently in all three parts of the novel. Great concept, though!

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  13. Wow! Thanks Gina for your openness and honesty, and for allowing God to use to to gently prod others.

    I've had plenty of times where I've felt Him nudge me in the ribs, or slap me on the wrist - during sermons or while I read the Word - then I must respond in repentance to move forward.

    Amazingly, the search for holiness ultimately leads to our complete happiness. Just like the Bible says - "Seek ye first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto you." Matt 6:33

    :) XXOO

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  14. Wow! Thanks Gina for your openness and honesty, and for allowing God to use to to gently prod others.

    I've had plenty of times where I've felt Him nudge me in the ribs, or slap me on the wrist - during sermons or while I read the Word - then I must respond in repentance to move forward.

    Amazingly, the search for holiness ultimately leads to our complete happiness. Just like the Bible says - "Seek ye first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto you." Matt 6:33

    :) XXOO

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  15. ((((Group Hug))))

    What a blessing, Gina. Thanks so much for sharing this today. You've ministered to me, and your words were used by the Holy Spirit to nudge me into dealing with my pride in a particular relationship. As I've said earlier, I have enough logs in my eye to build a cabin. Probably a very nice, large one. A ski lodge.

    And I want to be holy. It's the cry of my heart to serve Him and have clean hands and a clean heart. I love that verse, Niki, and I'm going to memorize it.

    I'm sorry it's so late in the day...I've been out all day and just got home. Wonderful discussion.

    Blessings, and more hugs

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  16. God just keeps molding us imperfect vessels, doesn't He?

    Love our potter...and all of those lumpy, misshapen pots!!!

    Blessings, Gina, and all the Inkies.
    Patti

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  17. I, too, had a chance to read this earlier in the week (thanks Gina) but no chance to let Gina know that I love her as a sister-in-Christ, fellow seeker, and writer extraordinaire!

    Thank you for your honesty, humility, and the way you prod me to examine my own journey.

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  18. Inktropolis is a very special place.

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