I am squirming in my seat even thinking about the words I am about to type. Prepare to be officially uncomfortable during this post.
There is your warning.
As humans, we tend to stray away from those things that make us feel exposed and vulnerable. Oftentimes, we are okay with getting to a certain level of community, and then when someone peels off another layer and goes just a little deeper, we run. I am praying that God would keep each of our hearts fixed today, regardless of the emotions that might be present. Someone wiser than me once told me that she was going to bring up the hard topics, because she knew that the world had found a way to be comfortable with certain aspects of our humanity, and as a Christian, while she didn’t want to be content in the mess, she wanted to bring it to the light instead of letting the world tell me what to do with it. Yes. So today, in complete authenticity, I want to bring to the light some things that I would sometimes, if I’m honest, rather leave in dark.
I sent Hugh the following text yesterday:
One of girls has an atypical behavior that, while it has always been present, seems to be getting more frequent. We have sent videos to several physicians, and the response is always the same, “It could be this. It could be this. We will just have to see”. While it doesn’t appear to be painful, and it doesn’t seem to be harmful, it is taxing to watch and bothersome for this momma’s heart because each time she does it, it is yet another realization that our girls are “different”. It doesn’t change my love for her, of course, but it’s frustrating to watch her do something over and over again that isn’t benefitting her development. As I typed the words to Hugh, and as the Lord and I discussed this behavior, the word default kept coming to mind. We all have them. Those behaviors, habits, guilty pleasures, secret sins; the things that we go to for temporary relief. Now, before we go on, I want to do some clarifying. Some of these things, in themselves, are not bad things: the ice cream sundae, the glass of wine, the work out, social media, time with friends, television, our hobbies, sports, shopping. Then, there are those things, the habits we most often keep secret, that point straight to self and away from God and community: pornography, masturbation, the affair, secret shopping habits, the medicine that was once prescribed but is no longer needed, yet still taken, financial decisions we keep away from our spouse, the text messages with the opposite sex that serve to make us feel more secure, scanning pictures of our ex’s on facebook “just to see what they are up to”, crass emails amongst friends that disrespect our spouses, that extra gaze or thought toward your co-worker that no one else would ever know about, the fantasies we play out in our minds in the midst of boredom, that television show you watch that you are sure isn’t God honoring but you do it anyway, the eating (or not eating) that you do when alone in order to stuff feelings or feel some sense of control…
If your answer is yes, I can assure you that you are not alone.
And, I want to address those things, but I don’t want to stay focused on them. You see, anything that points directly to self and self-pleasure, and directly away from God and His purposes, is straight up sin. We can rationalize it all we want, but the fact is, God’s word makes it clear that in order to have the mind of Christ, we have to throw off the flesh and its desires. I would venture to say that none of the things listed above make you want to know God more or want to share His love more with others. No. Our secret sins most always direct us to self-service instead of servanthood. And the fact is, we can rationalize away all we want, but someday, God will, “bring to light the things now hidden in darkness and will disclose the purposes of the heart.” (1 Corinthians 4:5, emphasis mine)
This is one of those, “I don’t necessarily like it, but I believe it” statements of the Bible. I would love to keep my secret stuff hidden, but the fact is that nothing is hidden from God. You can fool the people around you, even fool yourselves at times, but God will not be mocked and He absolutely is aware of each and every move we make. Terrifying, unless we remember the sacrifice at the cross. This is one of the most beautiful things about sanctification and community. Instead of keeping these things hidden, we can bring them out into the light, and there, expose them for what they really are: false promises of wholeness and satisfaction that leave us longing all the more. Only seen for what they truly are when brought to the foot of the cross; to the scars on the hands of the One who died for those very things we speak about.
But beyond those things that the Word says are sin, what about those things that are not sin within themselves? What about the temporary things that God has purposed as blessings? Can we simply enjoy them as long as we thank God for them? I believe the answer to this is yes and no. I believe it goes a little deeper than that, and becomes an issue of the heart rather than an issue of legality.
As a Christ follower, I want my default to always be that: Christ. God’s word, communication with Him, intercession for others. And, sometimes, I find myself going to those things. Other times, however, those seemingly harmless “gifts” take His place on the throne of ‘my’ life. It can creep up suddenly, but if I’m honest, it is pretty clear that my “go to” can often become the gifts of the Giver rather than the Giver Himself. As I was pondering this the other night, I realized how hurtful that must be to the Father. The scary thing is that often, no one else would know that a good thing has become a bad thing. In light of this, I believe we all need to do a heart check at times in order to look at who or what we are defaulting to.
What do we go to first whenever we are stressed? Is it a habit? Is it a particular person? Or is it the Problem Solver Himself?
What do we look forward to most in our day? Where do we seek satisfaction?
Friends, it is one thing to enjoy creation and enjoy all the things the Lord has placed in our lives. It is another thing altogether to look to those things for strength, peace, comfort, security, or joy. And, when we do this, we will find that those things often come up short because they were never meant to eternally satisfy. Seeking temporary things to do what the Eternal God was meant to do is like towing a car instead of filling it up with gas. It might get you somewhere initially, but it will leave you exhausted and stuck as soon as you stop pulling.
Sweet readers, Christ is the only One whose love is limitless. He ASKS us to continually seek Him, to continually bring our stuff to Him, and He says this out of pure love, knowing that He is the only One who can make us whole. Sure, these gifts are blessings when enjoyed in their proper place; but left to be our source of anything more and they can become the very thing that takes our joy away.
I have been doing quite the heart check this week, and in love, I want to encourage you to do the same. If you (like me) see some of these good gifts becoming idols, I challenge you to put them aside for a season in order to allow God to fill those empty places. We should come to this world with a full cup that overflows, not with an empty cup begging to be filled. Lights shining in the darkness, not blind beggars searching for flashlights or candles that can sniff out.
This I am confident of: He who promises is able. He will take your heart’s intentions and give you satisfaction and wholeness in those places that so need His loving touch; and in turn, you will be able to spill out this Love all the more. Let’s not settle for scraps under the table when a Holy banquet awaits.