The “C” Word(s)

I am 60 years old.  I have been retired for three years, living in a small town in the middle of nowhere, smack dab on a river, 14 acres of my own personal paradise.  I garden (kind of), I plant flowers (till they die from lack of attention), I can up the amazing vegetables that I *don’t* grow but do purchase in bulk at the nearby Amish Produce Auction.  Hubby and I take frequent camping trips – if you can call hanging out in a 40′ motorhome complete with microwave, satellite TV, and pretty much every comfort of home “camping” – and I get to play with at least some of my grandbabies very nearly every day. I wish the other half of my family were closer, but hey – motorhome!  Road trips!

Pretty perfect life, huh?  Except … it’s not.  It’s lacking one vital element.

I’m not serving God.

I go to Bible study every week.  We go to church … sometimes.  I pray, but not often enough and usually when I want God to do something for me or someone I care about.  When was the last time I asked God what I could do for Him?  I’d really rather not say, thanks.

I was talking about this with a girlfriend recently, about my lack of service and my growing conviction about it.  “When I get home, to heaven,” I said, “I so want to hear those words, ‘Well done, good and faithful servant.'”

And that’s when my friend said something that brought me up short, and made me really think.  And led to this post.

She said, her voice not so much sad as resigned, “I passed up my chance to hear those words years ago.”

Say whaaattt??

Let me tell you just a little about this friend.  First and foremost, she loves the Lord, truly and deeply.  She is smart, and kind, and gentle.  She is and has been, as long as I’ve known her, very active in her church – choir, teaching Sunday School, active in all kinds of Bible studies and small groups and ministries.  And not because that’s what “church people” are supposed to do, but because she loves doing those things.  Loves it.

And she has been Jesus to me more times than I can count.

But many years ago, even as a Christian, she struggled with an addiction that she found pleasurable and tormenting all at the same time, and it ensnared her for far too long.  There were also times, years ago, when she refused God’s calling, refused to use the gifts He had so clearly bestowed on her for His purposes, either from fear or laziness or just an unwilling heart.  So she said no to God and pursued her own path, not His.

She wasted so much of what God gave her, she said to me.  She wasted so much time.  Yes, she confessed those sins; yes, she repented of them.  Yes, she’s serving Him now, at church, but her time to win a “well done,” she said, has come and gone.  She’s too old, and it’s too late.

On this paper, in black and white, that might look a little ridiculous to us.  It’s never too late, we say.  And we’re right.  But … way down in the deepest places in our souls, what are we hearing?  Are we hearing a tiny voice saying, yeah, I kinda think it’s too late for me, too.  I wasted too much time, too.  I’m too old, too.  I had my chance, and I blew it, too.  I can serve God now, but that doesn’t make up for the times I chose not to.

That, my friends, is the voice of condemnation.  That is the voice of your fiercestdevil-whisper-in-ear enemy seeking to paralyze you.  That is the voice of the one who is terrified that you might actually get up and do something for God, that you might get out there and be a light in the darkness that is this world, so he’s whispering to you (because admit it, don’t we all lean in to hear a whisper? Sometimes when someone shouts we just cover our ears, but a whisper?  That’s so enticing ….), “Psst, listen, there’s no point doing all that God stuff now, it’s too late, remember when you said no to God?  Remember when you did that really bad thing? You might be forgiven, but do you really think God forgets? So … you’re not gonna be able to make up that ground.  Let’s go get a frozen yogurt instead.”

I’m not talking about the voice of conviction.  The voice of conviction comes from the Holy Spirit.  How do we know the difference?  You probably already know the answer to that.

Conviction comes when we’ve got an unconfessed, unrepented sin hanging out there, messing up our relationship with God.   I can tell you from personal experience, the Holy Spirit is unrelenting.  It’s like a woodpecker on the side of the house.  Tap-tap-tap.  TAP- tap-tap.  TAP-TAP-tap.  TAPTAPTAPTAPTAPTAP… you get the picture.

But the Holy Spirit has never once said to me, “You might as well throw in the towel, chickie, because that was a really bad thing and you’re way old anyway, so what’s the point? Frozennnnnn Yoooogurt time!”

The Holy Spirit pecks on the side of my hard head for as long as it takes to get my attention so He can tell me, “Hey, see that wall right there?  That’s the one you built by {{whatever sin it was on that day; very often with me it is uncharitable thoughts about others}} that’s keeping you from hanging out with God.  You know that kind of empty feeling you have?  That kind of lonely thing?  You can fix that if you’ll just tear down that wall.  You have the tools – repentance and confession.  Use them, you idiot.”  Okay, the Holy Spirit doesn’t call me an idiot.  By this point in the conversation I’m calling myself an idiot for waiting so long to listen.

We need to stop confusing the voices of condemnation and conviction.  (There may be other voices in your head too, and if so, possibly you should seek professional help.)

The voice of condemnation is from the enemy of your soul.  It leaves you feeling hopeless, helpless, a failure.  It takes your past and smears it all over your present.  Its primary purpose is to keep you as far away from Christ as possible.

The voice of conviction is from the lover of your soul.  It points to your only hope.  It says, I will help you.  It urges you to have victory over your failures.  It is not concerned with the past; what has been forgiven is washed forever clean.  It is concerned with the present.  Its primary purpose is to draw you as close to Christ as possible.

Condemnation immobilizes you.  It paralyzes you.  It bogs you down in a pit so deep your light cannot be seen.  Conviction mobilizes you.  It propels you to your knees.  It helps you throw off the chains that bind you so that your light can shine in the darkest of worlds.

Never confuse the two.

And go ahead and have a frozen yogurt; there’s really nothing inherently wrong with that.  In moderation.  So long as you’re not lactose intolerant.

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2 Responses to The “C” Word(s)

  1. Anonymous says:

    You’re really testing your fans — that was a wait of almost a year for a new post! Glad to hear from you.

    • Susan says:

      It’s been a … challenging … year! Plus, you know, I didn’t know I actually had any fans other than the obligatory ones — hubby, sister, lifelong friends. And since your comment is listed as anonymous I don’t know still if you’re in the obligatory category or ???? But thanks for reading! And commenting! It feels good to be writing again.

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