God works in so many ways all at the same time. Big stuff going on in my little world right now, and He still has the time and the care to bring conviction over a mindset and pattern I have that is not pleasing to Him. He still has the love and mercy to speak a warning to my heart. Every time I feel His convicting hand, once I get past the initial self-centered reaction, I feel loved. It warms me and makes me want to hug the reminder to myself that He is my Father, He loves me, because if He didn’t He wouldn’t discipline me.
I think this particular warning, more than any other I have received, has reinforced the truth that He doesn’t have this list of rules we have to follow or get punished. He has a way of life that is designed to protect us, to keep us from harm. For whatever reason, this one is the one where I can easily connect the dots and see that if I stay in this mindset, this pattern, there will be trouble ahead and it will hurt and be ugly and fearful. It’s lowering for me to admit that I haven’t seen that so clearly in the other harmful patterns I’ve been rescued from. I’ve made other choices in my life that were much more harmful than the one I’ve been convicted over now, yet it is this one that gave me the “aha” moment.
God’s “rules” are not autocratic, My way or the highway, “because I said so” kind of rules. They are guardrails. They are bumpers. They are protections and provisions. There is always a reason behind them, and the reason is always to bring us good, to keep us from harm. It’s not because He’s mean or snotty or on a power trip. It’s because He loves us.
I would like to say, to know, that this “aha” moment will enable me to heed His warnings the first time from now on. But I don’t have that much faith in my learning ability. I’m pretty stubborn and stupid sometimes. Foolish. I read an excerpt from a book by A.W. Tozer that explained wise and foolish to me better than any other explanation I’ve seen. The foolish man acts with no thought to consequences, or acts despite known consequences, in order to feed his fleshly desires. The wise man heeds the consequences and acts in his own eternal best interests. There’s a verse in Galatians that speak to that. “For the one who sows to his own flesh will from the flesh reap corruption, but the one who sows to the Spirit will from the Spirit reap eternal life.”
In this mindset, this pattern, I have been sowing to the flesh. I have been feeding my fleshly desires without thought to potential consequences. My loving Father does not want me to experience those consequences, so He has been laying His hand heavy on me. Want to know the really stupid part? The work of the Holy Spirit has been going on for a while now, and I had a moment almost a week ago where I understood that He was trying to get my attention over this particular behavior. I even said “I understand what You are telling me.” I had another moment yesterday morning where in the normal course of my study the thought came up again about this pattern that I needed to abandon, and I felt again the conviction of my Father over it. Then went out and did it anyway. What a moron!
I can go back over my actions and thoughts and see where I went wrong. I went into the situation with the warning in the back of my mind. I knew better. I had pure motives that brought me to the situation, but instead of leaving it there I went further. And it was foolish.
I have made other choices in my life that I regret with everything in me. I have sat in pools and puddles of shame over my own actions. I have walked around with that sticky, itchy cloak of shame as a living thing clinging to my skin. I know what conviction feels like. I know what guilt feels like. I know because I have walked in it so many times. And the conviction I felt yesterday after I did what I knew I shouldn’t do was just as heavy, just as stark, just as soul-searing as when I had committed adultery.
That got my attention too. The fact that what I felt over what arguably was a fairly minor thing was just as major as when I committed one of the “big 10.” There’s a couple things I learned from that. One, that God was serious about what He had impressed upon me. Two, what I think is minor is not if God says it’s not.
I recognized other default patterns during the course of the day after that. I wanted to run from Him. I wanted to hide. My Bible was sitting on the table near me, and I hadn’t finished my normal study that morning. I should have gotten back to it, picked it back up and continued. But I didn’t. I looked at my Bible at one point and the thought crossed my mind that I had messed up and didn’t have the right to sit down with Him in relationship again. I had to pay for what I’d done. I had to earn that privilege again. I became surly and grumpy. My temper spouted. I couldn’t feel His joy, His peace. At a time when I needed it, I couldn’t access the well of faith in my heart.
I think I saw the play of the tempter during those hours. It’s been used before on me, and it’s worked in the past. But greater is He that is within me than he that is within the world. So the truth that I have been exposed to in His word, the foundations that He has laid in my heart would not allow me to believe the lies that were being whispered around me. If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and cleanse us from all unrighteousness. This is the truth. This is a promise, and God cannot go back on His promises.
That was a small skirmish in the bigger battle that occurred in my life yesterday. God won the skirmish, and I pray has won the battle. I pray that He has gotten my attention, that the conviction I endured, the guilt I brought on myself was enough to truly divert me from this harmful pattern. I don’t want the consequences, because even in my short-sighted stupidity I know they would be miserable. The battle between flesh and Spirit is one that will go on until I am with Him in person, and there will be many more skirmishes and sorties on the way. I know He wins in the end. I know that when I bow before Him and see Him, I will be completely healed, completely clean, because He is able to present me faultless before the throne. In the meantime, I pray I will heed Him when He tells me not to do something.