Friday, January 18, 2008

Where's the Grace?

I know it's a little strange for this post to follow one about hearing angels singing, but there you have it. I want to know what happened to all the wonderful grace I'd been experiencing. To be quite honest, I'm feeling very tired, lonely, annoyed, impatient, and fat. I decided a few weeks ago to stop putting myself under law in the area of diet and stop obsessing over my body, and the result has been a 10 pound weight gain. This is not helpful! It has been better not weighing myself every 5 minutes all day long, but in the end I'm just living in the illusion that I'm not getting fatter, so I'm confused about the right course of action here.

Do I go back to dieting? I don't know. This is just one huge area of my life that seems untouched by grace, an area I still regularly experience guilt and condemnation, , so much so that when I go try on clothes in a store and look in the mirror I almost start crying such shame comes over me. If any of you men out there have ever told some woman in your life to stop talking about fat, I hope you can muster up a little compassion here! I don't think this is an easy thing to put up on my blog, but I know from experiecne that there are so many women who struggle with this (and some men too!) and I know that I know that God wants to bring me out the other side victorious so I can help others, but for the life of me I can't seem to see much hope right now. And so many other issues come out from this one, this problem of not liking yourself at a gut level (no pun intended hehe).

I guess instinctively I can see there's a demonic element behind this, as well as a defiency in my understanding and experience of truth. My temptation is always, go back to law. "See? This grace stuff doesn't really work, not in the real nitty-gritty stuff of life." I'm really confused. I think that's probably obvious! I have all sorts of pat answers swimming around in my head, but I want power! I want God to stop hiding from me, only showing up once in a while, even if when he does show up it's amazing. I want him every day every day, and for a time I did have him every day! Is the infatuation with grace over now? Can't I have more? The first place my mind goes when I'm not experiencing God the way I really want to is 'what am I doing wrong, or what can I do to get him to come back'. This is counterproductive I know but I don't know what to do, because I know the answer is not in my doing at all.

Well, I think this is getting to be a depressing post. And a confusing one. If anyone has a word for me I'd love to hear it, though in this area I'm really struggling right now, I do want to throw it out there that all in my life is not so bleak! In some ways I feel like a spoiled child even talking about this, God has been so good to me, it's just I'm not satisfied and I know there's more I'm missing...and I know he wants to give me what I'm asking for.


Katie LaBs said...

Hey Jul, Thanks for sharing what's on your mind. I'll be praying for you! I can totally relate about the body stuff. I probably could've written a good bulk of this post! Your thoughts have stirred me to think about how grace reaches this area of life that so many women wrestle with. I so easily settle for "law" in this area. But your right in that God has so much more! Again, thanks for sharing....
PS.. I don't think your fat! Neither does the Lord. You are beautiful to Him :)

janelle said...

Remember when Paul had his "thorn"? Remember what the Lord said to him? "My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness." Paul then goes on to say that he will boast in his weakness so that Christ's power can what? REST ON ME! Ahh, the promises we have in Christ.

Anonymous said...

Hi Jul,

This evening after reading this blog post and then thinking about it a little and totally relating to it, I was doing some non-related internet browsing (so I thought), and I came across some things that, to me, are simply too, too, too coincidental to be just coincidental. :)

I'll be as brief as I can. Someone (Aida) commented on my blog today on the subject of faith, and I responded by saying that I would try to look up an old article I had written on the subject. This evening I went to, which is a website that archives old versions of websites, and I found my old article. While there, I also decided to look at old versions of I clicked on the "Wayback Machine" to see what that website looked like in the past, and by "chance," I clicked on "Feb 02, 2001." On the website archive, there is an article called "
Faith Looks Back
" by a man named John Moneypenny. My jaw dropped to the floor as I read it. This article addresses a lot of what you mentioned in this blog, as well as a lot of stuff that someone else also mentioned in another blog today.

Anyway, I thought I would share it with you. It may or may not speak to you in your present circumstances, but I think at least parts of it are spot on with what you've talked about here.

As I said, I can totally relate to what you've said here. I could stand to lose a good 30-40 pounds myself, and at times I've been in that place where I've questioned why grace "isn't working" in this area in my life. But the thing is, I could also list 1,000 other things in my life that I think should be different if grace is truly operating in my life. However, I've come to see that grace isn't so much about me having victory in every little area of my life as it is about me resting and being content whether or not I see and experience any specific amount of growth or perfection in my outward expression of the life of Christ. He is in me and He is living in me and working through me, whether or not I feel it or experience complete victory in all the things I think I should be.

My faith isn't in all the things I've seen Him do, or in all the things I've experienced or think I should be experiencing. My faith is the evidence of things that I haven't even seen yet.

Anyway, I knew I related very much to what you were saying here but I didn't know how to express it so I was silently praying about it and then I came across this article. Perhaps there's something in it that will bless you.

Dan Bowen said...

Well Julie, I've got no Christian cliches to produce that sound quite good - or any Bible verses even to flag up because you are aware of them all. I guess all I wanted to say is that in my experience the devil's key attack is to make you think that you and you alone are suffering with self-image and that you and you alone should feel guilty at feeling so about the temple of the Holy Spirit.

If it's any consolation I have been feeling that way since I went to the Christian school in my home town and experienced what I did there with the resulting feelings and conflicts. It was at it's worst while I was in Bristol in the SG church where I guess I had full blown anorexia (although the root problem was pride of course) ;)

I still look in the mirror when I hop out the shower and shudder - who'd be interested in a guy with a spare tire round his stomach?!

But I guess what I am getting at is that, from my pure diet of Rob Rufus over the last few weeks I think the answer is not mortifying of some indwelling sin (that doesn't exist), or wearing baggy clothes that get ticks on a checklist somewhere.

The answer surely is to immerse ourselves yet more in the truth of the grace of God. Romans 5 is my favourite verse at the moment that Rob has been quoting a lot.

"Where there is no law, there is NO transgression"!!!

Woo hoooooo!! :D I don't know how that will help with my pathetic self-image but it sure makes me feel great inside. All sort of light and heady! If Rob Rufus has been baptising himself in the truth of the grace of God for the last 25 years then I don't think we can ever get to a point where we can start beating ourselves because we should "be doing better". That's legalism again!

I am going to take a deep breath - you too. And get back to thinking about the glorious and exhilarating truth of what actually happened when Christ said "It is finished" on the Cross and when the veil was torn in two - what that really means!!

Because I suspect that in the Holy of Holies - in the glory realm - true beauty will be revealed. And like Katie said, I see you as clothed in wonderful stunning robes of righteousness standing crowned with a tiara of pure light that is the mark of the passionate, intimate love of the Father for you ... His wonderful precious daughter brought with a price.

So keep going! I am right behind you learning too! :)

dogimo said...

I'm confused as to why you'd equate a diet with the sort of legalism you've talked about here.

Not all law is in conflict with grace. Surely the only law that is in conflict with grace is the law that paints itself as a path to salvation! No one should ever delude themselves that their soul's state can be improved by adherence to a regimen of laws.

But in the realms of physical fitness, or traffic safety, or any such purely corporeal concerns -there can be no conflict with grace, here. No one is saying that it is our duty as Christian's not to eat that donut...well...maybe SOME people are saying that! Some may indeed take it that far. But that's their error, and the error is not in setting a dietary rule but in claiming the rule has spiritual significance.

There is nothing wrong with setting or following some clear and sensible guidelines if they safeguard your merely corporeal well-being. No one (I hope!) would ever say that diet alone can save your soul, or that breaking the speed limit is an abomination before the Lord! Yet we can see the sense in eating healthy and driving safe.

I guess I'm just saying, there's nothing wrong with taking organized steps to care of yourself. Just so long as you don't think God loves you more or less based on how you look!

And don't YOU think that you should love yourself more or less based on such a thing! GOD loves you. You are worthy of God's unconditional love. Don't think you're not worthy of your own!

dogimo said...

...I am absolutely NOT trying to be a little snot about this, but this just occured to me. It almost seems that your dread of placing yourself "under law" in an area like this, could be a symptom of a sneaky and pernicious form of legalism in itself.

In your reaction against legalism, have you set yourself a law of your own? A "NO-LAW" law!

It sounds silly, but I mean it as a serious question. Sometimes in our desire not to be shackled to a thing, we shackle ourselves to whatever the thing is not.

But in the end, we're still in shackles.

jul said...

Many things to think about guys, thanks.

Dogimo, I don't think you're being a 'little snot' lol, I appreciate your questions etc... I think you're right as well, on the diet issue, of course it can be helpful to eat right. To clarify, I'm very well versed in nutrition and know very well how to lose weight and get healthy by diet. But I always seem to take it too far and become all consumed with it, preaching it like a tv evangelist and becoming overwhelmed with condemnation every time I fail, or self-righteous smugness when I succeed. I treat nutrition as if it were our salvation, as if whether God healed us or not was directly related to whether we deserved it or not based on our lifestyle. Eat fast food all the time? You DESERVE to have disease. Eat healthy and still get a disease? What's wrong with God, can't he see that person deserves to be healthy? Do you see what I mean? I know I wasn't being very clear.

As far as your point about being legalistic about legalism, I think you're right too. It's something we've talked about before, ironically we need to remember to be gracious as we preach grace!

dogimo said...

>But I always seem to take it too far and become all consumed with it, preaching it like a tv evangelist and becoming overwhelmed with condemnation every time I fail, or self-righteous smugness when I succeed ...

Oh wow! That makes perfect sense now. It sounds like the 'legalistic ways' that you've purged so assiduously from your spiritual life have taken refuge in some of the other areas!

But they can't really hurt you there. :-) As long as you see them for what they are: old habits that have no power over you. It sounds like you're pretty self-aware on that score.

Kind of a double-edged sword, isn't it? You feel the condemnation when you fail on a goal, and then you feel the guilt for feeling the condemnation. But as long as you get some distance on those guilt impulses, and you know that you're not really placing yourself or your soul "under law", you will be able to focus on the core issues which are tough enough to deal with already! And of course when you really examine these physical issues, they pale in significance to what REALLY matters.

We were never promised that we wouldn't have physical struggles and physical trials, but trust in the Lord's strength and rejoice in your soul's perfection!

Lynnea said...

I've been reading your blog some tonight, and I'm a little confused, but that's probably just me. Please read my inquiries as truly seeking and trying to understand.

You do say you still sin as a believer, as a new creation. We, as new creations, will still sin, and not be perfect on this earth. So I was wondering, what do you do when you sin? Do you confess your sin to God, pray, repent(turn away), do nothing, keep sinning,ignore it, _____??

I've struggled with weight "issues" most of my life...and it wasn't until I agreed with God that I was a glutton, and confessed my sin, and received his atoning grace that I truly was "free" from it. I no longer am as legalistic with it, although at times I'm more regimented. I'm not sure if you think that process was "legalistic" or not, but that is how I was freed of this and every other sin that creeps up in my life as a new creature.

I guess I just wonder how you confess sin...or do you think you don't sin, or don't need to confess sin? I'm curious.

jul said...

Lynnea, thanks for stopping by! I've been thinking about your questions and remember I answered some similar questions in a comment a while back so I going to copy and paste a portion of it here in answer. Hope this helps clarify for you!

"I think the question of sin is not that complicated. It's simply a matter of conviction by the Holy Spirit, whether through a corrective word from someone, Scripture, or just his quiet voice (or a combination). When we sin, "we have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous" (1 John 3:1) Since all our sins are forgiven at salvation, even the ones we haven't committed yet, there is no need for any kind of fear when we sin. We are to come boldly to the throne of grace in our time of need (which can also prevent us from falling into sin) to receive help and mercy. Sometimes when I'm convicted, I feel a deep emotional sense of sadness, something of the heart of God as Father of a prodigal and then the joy of his heart when I return to him (repent). Often, it's not a very emotional experience. It's more like the Holy Spirit saying " look at this, I want to change this" and me saying "Yes! Thank-you!" I'm excited because when God puts his finger on some sin in your life it means he's going to apply his grace and power to that area to conform you more to the image of Jesus. That's not exactly something to mourn about. Many times when I feel really awful over sin it isn't godly at all, it's some combination of condemnation, hurt pride (ashamed of myself, self-focus), and spiritual attack from the accuser. I guess what I'm really trying to say is that when we are dead to the law, there is no more condemnation and that makes a big difference! The guilt of our sin is completely gone, carried by Jesus to the cross and never resurrected, so no, we shouldn't really feel guilty (though an awareness of our sin and a godly sorrow is right) or ashamed BUT we should still repent. I think we've made 'repent' such a negative word when what it means it to turn back to God, we usually only talk about the turning away from sin. When the prodigal son turned away from pig slop and ran into the arms of his loving father, it wasn't exactly depressing. It was a joyful celebration of the Father's love.

I think I should also add, that though we have not broken a law we have still disobeyed the Spirit. We are to live according to the Spirit, and whenever he is trying to lead or direct us and we are not yeilding we are in sin (because we are not in faith Rom.14:23). But the remedy is quick and simple-say sorry and move on in the Spirit! "

This comment is found on this post

Also if you check out Ryan Rufus' free e-book "Do Christians Still Have a Sinful Nature" this explains much more clearly (with lots of Scripture) my doctrinal position.

God Bless you and your family.