Archive for the ‘Turning away from God’ Category

A warning

Posted: March 24, 2013 in Hope, Turning away from God
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I don’t know if you noticed much this winter, but there were a lot of severe weather warnings, and some even continue today. In all its wisdom, the MET office issued “Yellow Snow Warnings”, to warn people that they might get stuck.

I’m not sure if you know this, but yellow snow is definitely something to be worried about. It means that a passing dog has done his business. Basically. So something that we should avoid.

It’s funny really, because snow is so like us, and the yellow bits (or dark grey muddy bits if it is on the edge of a road) are like our sins. We begin as white as snow, but then we screw things up somewhat. What began as pure is totally ruined. And only God can make it better. (Yes, I know, we could argue for days about whether we really did begin as pure, but here I’m mostly thinking Eden days…)

Sin is one of those big bad words which I’m not always convinced we really understand. It feels like one of those “Christian” words that belongs to a bygone age back when people drove around in carriages and said thee and thou. It makes us feel like miserable offenders who can never get anything right or like we need to try to be perfect and never get anything wrong.

But, actually, I am a sinner. And, although I don’t know you, I think it is likely that you are too. How many times have I wandered away from God’s purposes for my life? How many times have I thought horrible things about people? How many times have I decided that I know best (and there is a story of when I was 3 and decided I could swim by myself and jumped into the swimming pool without any armbands…and of course I sank…) How many times have I simply tried to ignore God and pretend he isn’t there?

But because Jesus offers us the hope of forgiveness through the cross and resurrection, I (and you) can be forgiven for this. It is amazing. We can live in hope of grace that we don’t deserve but God gives us anyway. However far we have fallen, or whatever we have done, we can know God’s forgiveness.

However, this does mean I try my best not to screw up, otherwise the grace offered by the cross becomes a joke – I mean, Jesus died so that I could go free. That means that the yellow snow warning comes as a warning to me, to seek after purity and holiness and good. Not to give into the desires that I know will lead me into bad places. And to give sin and all patches of yellow in the snow a very wide berth.

About a week ago, I decided to go for a run. It was a bit on the windy side, but a good battle, until I was on the home straight, and suddenly, the ground was no longer beneath me. I fell over a stone. It hurt. A lot.

A semi-helpful passer-by who was out with his family on a walk, stuck out his hand to help me up, said “You’ve probably twisted your ankle” then walked off. It still hurt. In fact, I was so breathless that I couldn’t really say the ground felt like the most comfortable place at the time or even ask him if he could help some more.

So I hobbled home before I got cold, and hoped that the wind would hide the tears of pain. As my ankle swelled up, it became obvious that I would be condemned to lots of sofa time in the next few days and all my wonderful plans to travel the country and do lots of work would completely fail. And I’m not a very good patient.

By the weekend, it was obviously not improving as fast as it should, and so I decided it might be a plan to have it checked over properly, and got a lift with my Dad to the local treatment centre, where after about an hour, I was heading back home with some painkillers and some slightly conflicting and confusing advice. Although it was a minor injury, it was no big deal (ok, so no sympathy there then), I should sit with it up but still do minor exercise and even run if I wanted to, in fact I should (er? really?) and there was absolutely no committal about whether I should drive or not.

Understandably, I was a bit hacked off. I mean, really? I had gone wanting a set of answers as to how long I had to mope about the house for and came out with nothing.

And I said as much to my Dad. He pointed out though, that part of the reason I had gone was to check it wasn’t broken and get advice on treatment. Which I got. And some painkillers to boot. Was I really just complaining because they didn’t make enough fuss about it?

And the short answer is yes. Not everything is about me. The overworked nurses were doing their best and dealing with crap along the way. And I have had a lot of sympathy and allowances made elsewhere. So I think one of my prayers for the new year will be for some proper humility. Of the godly, and patient sort, that puts me in right relation to my Creator and to the rest of the world. And that stops me getting stroppy because people don’t do exactly what I want them to do. Hmmm.





Where do we put our trust?

Someone reminded me recently that I am actually a relatively capable person and that there are a lot of things that other people find quite difficult that I seem just to be able to do somehow. Despite everything, I got good grades in school, played musical instruments to a high standard, passed my driving test first time, learned to bake and make nice food, did sport a bit… You name it, I was there.

When I met Jesus, I learned that the world no longer revolved around me and what I can do, but around him and what he has done for us on the Cross and in the Resurrection. “For what I received I passed on to you as of first importance: that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures, and that he appeared to Cephas, and then to the Twelve.” (1 Corinthians 15:3-5)

Jesus died on the cross for my sins. For every time that I fail to honour God in my thoughts, my words, or my actions. For every time I turn away from him. This changed things completely. Things were no longer about me.

But then every so often, I find the old patterns creeping back in. “I just need to do this, and then people will like me…” or “If I do really well in this course, then I will be really happy”… or “I will only be pleased if I get more than 90%”. Sometimes, I do achieve these seemingly impossible feats. Sometimes I don’t.

Every time that I do though, it is another reminder that I have a choice. I can either choose to rely on myself, my own strengths and abilities, or on God. And his are way better quite frankly.

It’s not about not doing well or not trying to glorify God through my actions, but rather things not being about me. Knowing that all that I can do is a gift from God. And that I need to trust him more and more. He has a plan for my life, so I need to stop getting in the way of that.

It starts being about the decisions I make. How will I spend my time? What about my money? Do these simple things reflect my trust in my loving Creator, or an attempt to glorify myself? Do I keep thinking about scissors and ways to hurt or ways I can know God more?

These are difficult questions. But I want to grow in my journey with Christ more and more each day, so I’m going to keep asking them of myself. Maybe you should think about it too, to keep me company, or because God is laying it on your heart too…

The other day I gave up, gave in and stopped fighting. It was awful.

I knew that I would regret it afterwards. I knew it wasn’t what God wanted for me. I knew that I was giving up on a good five months without having done any damage. But I just didn’t care.

Afterwards, I didn’t feel any better. In fact I threw up. Not clever. I’m not even sure what it did help really.

Now it is time to slowly start climbing back onto that wagon, step by step and day by day.

I sing in a Gospel choir, and one of the songs we sing is going round and round in my head: “I want Jesus to walk with me”. Right now, that is so true. He is my only hope.

I’m not going to lie. I know that I am a sinner, made clean through the death of Jesus. Every day I screw up in some way or other – I do something that is dishonouring to God and often something which is horrible to those around me. I am a sinner.

I think it is both easy and difficult to define sin. In many ways, the simple explanation is “sin is something which involves turning your back on God”. And that is definitely true. But someone once asked me whether I would consider someone who was acting in a particular way due to illness as a sinner – maybe someone who was bi-polar on a high behaving in a way that was not their normal self. Would I?

There are people who would answer yes to that question. But there are also many others who would say no. I was one of the yes people, until I realised that that was how I was seeing myself and my self-harm. Self-harm is a mental illness, which makes us behave in a way that we wouldn’t normally. If that is the case, can we really describe our self-harm as sin?

Sin grabs us and takes hold. Yes. But the devil also makes us feel guilty about the things that we can’t control. Instead of feeling guilty about my “illness”, I needed a new way to think about it. Yes, what I was doing did not honour and glorify God, and represented me turning my back on the future he has for me, but it was not like stealing from a shop or murdering someone.

Do not fall into the trap of seeing yourself as a worse sinner than anyone else because of an illness, whether self-harm, anorexia, bulimia, depression, or whatever. The Fall had many consequences, and a broken world was one of them. This is why sin is so difficult to define.

What does it mean for us that our actions arise from brokenness rather than sin? It doesn’t mean that it is ok to give into the temptation to self-harm. But it means that our confession and our cry out to God can come from a different place, a place that can be free from guilt and shame.

This video made me cry when I found it when looking for something else last week. There isn’t much that will do that, so I thought you all could have the privilege of seeing it too…