I’m pretty sure I know how to stress you out…to make you feel at least a little bit guilty. In general, if you are an evangelical Christian, I know I just need to ask you a series of questions with the word “enough” at the end.
“Are you reading the bible enough?”
“Are you praying enough?”
“Are you sharing you faith enough?”
“Are you giving, serving, fasting, (you get the idea) enough?”
Cue the guilt. Cue the excuses. But before you do that here is another question: “What does enough even mean?” For most of us, our tendency, when it comes to spiritual practices, we define “enough” as something beyond what I am currently doing. And since we can never reach that, we settle for feeling guilty about all of the things we should be doing.
When I was in college, I attended a church and a campus ministry that both called people to a high standard. We were told we should pray hour a day at our campus ministry. At the church, “give your tithe, and more.” In the campus ministry, “go out and evangelize weekly.”
This all took place at a time in my life where I was for the first time ever becoming serious about my faith. And so every message where someone told me, “here is what you need to do on a daily, weekly, whatever basis,” I gave it a shot.
A couple years in I started to notice something. I only had 24 hours in a day. When you took out work, sleep, school, etc. I only had a few hours left every day, and they weren’t enough to do all of the things I was supposed to do. So I started to fall into what I saw a lot of others around me doing which was feel guilty about all the stuff I couldn’t do.
One day I was sitting in my parent’s living room thinking about this when it hit me that the people I read about in scripture, they didn’t tend to stress about this kind of stuff. They basically lived their lives, of which God was a big part.
So I got this idea. “What if I took the biblical idea of freedom in Christ and applied it to this part of my life?” What if, when I had one of those days where I didn’t read the bible due to whatever…rather than beating myself up, at the end of the day, I told God something like, “I’m sorry I didn’t read the bible today. Please help me to get to it tomorrow.” And then actually believed that God was okay with that (that means I had to believe that He forgives…that He is full of grace and mercy…and that He actually likes me.)
Now, some might wonder, isn’t this just giving permission to ignore all of these things we’re supposed to be doing? I guess someone could do that…although if you’re looking at doing this as a way to fool God, that seems like a losing proposition. I come at it more from the direction of, if there is a person I feel guilty towards…I should have done something, but didn’t, I don’t want to spend much time around that person. It makes me uncomfortable. But when I can tell them I messed up…I sinned, and they say they forgive me, I actually feel comfortable around that person and want to do better.
This has made a tremendous difference in my life.
Is there an area where you need to stop beating up on yourself and allow God to bring some grace?
[this is a repost of a post I wrote in early 2011]