By: Staci Stallings
This guilt thing is fascinating, but as I read “Forgiven Forever,” it has occurred to me how when we label something “sin,” some of us shut off the rest of the argument because we’ve never done anything “that bad.” We haven’t sinned. After all, we’re trying really hard to get it right.
Last night I was reading and when I got to the end of one chapter, I spent about ten minutes trying to wrap my mind around something I saw but was having real trouble putting into words. This is what I wrote:
Original sin is trying to do it on your own.
So you can be sinning (by trying to do it on your own) and still be missing the mark even if what you are doing doesn’t look evil.
The spiral doesn’t begin with “guilt” in this case. It begins with looking very good to the outside world, and we get complimented and praised for doing so good. We don’t even have to deceive ourselves into thinking this isn’t that bad because no one including us thinks it is. Then “good” starts taking over. We get addicted to the approval of others and it takes more and more and more of it to get a “hit.” At the zenith of that hill, we begin to get clear signals that this isn’t working, that I can’t keep this up, that the load has gotten too heavy. But by then we are caught in the trap of our expectations of ourselves (too high) and the expectations of others… and there’s nowhere to go. We can’t admit we can’t do it (that’s weakness), and yet we can’t, but we keep trying because we believe God and everyone else expects us to.
That’s when guilt enters and eats us alive.
Only God can get us out, and He can only do that if we will admit our weakness (admit that we can’t AND STOP TRYING TO!), fall at His feet, and let Him. Otherwise, He will let our sandcastles fall. Only when we renounce our sandcastles and trying to build them ourselves will we suddenly find ourselves at God’s mansion on the Rock… empty-handed, to be finally saved from ourselves by His Grace.
You see, I believe there is sin that looks like sin in the world. You know, drugs, alcohol, going off the rails, being promiscuous, as well as countless other sins you can probably name. Those are serious, don’t get me wrong. But there is another type of sin, a type that snags many, MANY well-meaning Christians. This type doesn’t look like sin at all, but believe me, it is just as deadly. This sin is the half of the Tree we don’t really think about… the Knowledge of GOOD.
We get conned into believing we know what is good and then trying to do that on our own. And oh, what a frightening trap this is.
I remember in “Tired of Trying to Measure Up,” there was the story of a young man who was on drugs. His parents and church family prayed for him, worked with him, and finally sent him to rehab. When he came out, he was a “changed man.” He stopped doing drugs, became a prominent member of the youth group, was in every church organization, and everyone rejoiced because he was “cured.” Except that he wasn’t.
When he was on drugs, he was on the Give Up wheel, just existing because he was in such despair. His core was empty. When he came out of rehab, he did not get on the God wheel, instead he got on the Try Harder wheel. And though his actions looked “healed” to everyone out there, he was doing it all for the wrong reasons (to gain the outside world’s approval) and on his own strength, but his core was still empty.
I think that story struck me so hard because I was on the Try Harder wheel for so long, and I got so much praise from the outside world for my “accomplishments.” But as Van Vonderan states in this story, the boy’s inside core was still empty… he just looked really good doing it. That’s where I was… doing and doing and doing, and actually being very impressive to the outside world when inside I was miserable and empty. I was scared, and I was angry, and I was confused. After all, I was doing everything they said I should to be happy, and many of them praised me for being such a success, so why didn’t I feel like a success?
That made no sense to me.
Now it makes complete sense. God did not allow that empty part of me to be filled up with accomplishments (THANK GOD!). He wanted it to be filled with HIM! And until I got that, I stayed quietly miserable.
So if you are doing and doing and doing and doing, even if it looks really good on the outside, but inside you are quietly miserable and empty, I submit to you that this may be the reason why. You are still eating off the wrong Tree. This is the most dangerous lie of all because trust me, by the time anyone knows you are in trouble, the spiral of emptiness will have taken over. Further, they won’t know how to help you. They will want you to “go back to who you were.” Or “snap out of it.” And people who are caught here just can’t wrap their minds around what took them down. I mean, they weren’t drinking. They didn’t leave their wife and kids for another person. They were working hard and had success… Why is this happening?
I will say it again, God can get you out if you’re on that spiral or even if you think you might understand this because you’re living the beginning stages of it now. God can get you out. You can’t. God can. If you will let Him.