July 1, 2013

Freedom vs. Guilt

Why is it so much easier to make a pot of coffee, wash dishes, pick up the remnants of lunch, check email, anything other than doing what I need and really love to do, which is write!  Honestly, that’s not quite accurate.  I have more of a love/hate relationship with writing.  I love it because it is life giving for me, it challenges me to plumb the depths of my inner self and express my creativity, and yet…and yet…sometimes it is excruciating to get to that part of myself. Everything in me tells me that writing is insignificant.  That I don’t really need that time for myself.  That I am being selfish, or worse self-absorbed, to think that what I have to say to the world through the written word could possibly make a hill of beans difference to anyone.  And even if it did, it isn’t worth the time and energy it is going to require for me to fully dedicate myself to the creative process.

This is when I need to get mad!  I mean downright cuss-you-up-and-down angry because what kind of nonsense is that?  Why shouldn’t I take the time to cultivate what God has given me?  If He thought me worthy enough to receive such a gift, not of my own merit, but out of the depths of his grace, who am I to refuse it?  Who am I to waste something so precious by allowing it to lie dormant?  And furthermore, who am I to say that he can’t use me to touch the life of another in this way.

But Motherhood!  You sly devil in disguise.  You keep telling me that somehow I’m not fulfilling my higher calling of mothering my children properly if I prioritize time for myself.  You convince me that my creative, intellectual, and personal pursuits are a relic of my single days.  That I must sacrifice all on the altar of motherhood. 

So I worship the idol of idealism when it comes to my role as a mother. I think, “If I can’t be it all, do it all well without ever making my children wait as I give my attention to my own well-being then I am guilty!  Guilty of sacrificing their best interests in favor of my own self-centered ambition.” 

Boldly, I must constantly tell myself, “This is a lie from the pit!”  You, Melissa, are not last.  You are not a martyr to motherhood.  You are a multi-faceted, fragile, imperfect, loving, needy, giving human being.  Your children need a role model of a mother who is not enchained to giving it to their every whim and whimper.  She is a woman who knows herself and loves herself and her children enough to show them through her actions that she is valuable.  She is not to be taken advantage of.  Instead, she serves her family with a joyful heart by keeping healthy boundaries both for her sake and theirs.  When her children cross a boundary that she has lovingly set for them, she disciplines them and shows them how much peace they can find when they willingly submit to her authority rather than constantly kicking against it. 

This is the kind of woman I want to be.  Inevitably, I will sometimes let the “tyranny of the urgent” or the persistence of a two-year-old get the best of me.  Sometimes I will give in to defeat and let my own needs and desires slip through the cracks.  Sometimes I will be guilty of selfishness and will resent my limitations as a mother at this point in my life.  But I will live one day at a time.  I will savor the moments with my children, the moments with my husband, the moments with my friends and family, the moments with myself.

And when that ugly accuser in my head starts to taunt me, I will shut my ears, say a prayer, and remember that I am a child of God and the blood of Jesus bought me freedom from a guilty conscience. “For freedom Christ has set you free.  Therefore, do not be burdened again by a yoke of slavery.” (Galatians 5:1) The slavery is the voice of condemnation.  It is the voice that tells us that we have to do more, be more than we already are in order to obtain or keep God’s love.  But what Jesus asks of us is simply to surrender to his love.  Surrender to our own inadequacies and submit to his loving authority over our lives.  What he longs to give us is pure freedom from self-doubt and striving to be better.  Though it comes in all shapes and sizes, this futile striving to be “like God” in and of ourselves is every man and woman’s battle, inherited from Adam and Eve.  This spiritual toil depletes our inner strength and keeps us bound. 

As I write, I feel the chains coming loose.  I stop worrying about what to say. I simply let God speak to me as I write.  I learn to listen to the Spirit of God rather than the spirit of the accuser.  And I begin to experience true freedom, one letter at a time.

I pray that you would experience this same freedom through surrender to Jesus Christ.  He may not use writing, but I pray he would use something or someone in your life to reveal your need for his grace.  Joyfully succumb to a grace you cannot comprehend and spend eternity drinking deeply from a well of love that never runs dry.

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