Monday, June 20, 2011
Honestly, I am not really sure the source of the guilt. What string of events have been tied together to lead me to this seemingly uncontrollable reaction to the simple choice to stay home on Sabbath rather than attend church service at my home church? Over the years I have experienced seasons in my life where there seemed more gained physically, spiritually, and emotionally by spending a relaxing Sabbath at home reading, watching sermons on television or the computer, spending time with family, or even out in my garden. Not to mention the occasional events that take you out of town or just conflict with the timing of church service. It has been my experience that going with these seasons and/or moments is highly beneficial to myself as well as those around me that I love and care about, but I don't ever fully gain the benefit due to the underlying existence of that dreaded emotion, guilt.
Our latest challenge to church attendance has been the addition to new life in our family and the state of extreme exhaustion that follows as well as the change in daily life that is inevitable with a new family member. I have learned so much having a new little one, and it seems my newest lesson is to learn how to work through guilt and not let it have power in my life. What a challenge!
Guilt saps joy even in joyful circumstances. It's like it has a grip strongly wrapped around your innermost being. How uncomfortable is that? Through prayer and concerted effort, along with a conscious decision to learn how to eliminate self-inflicted guilt from my life, I praise God that I am learning how to loose myself from guilt's talons. It is quite possibly the most challenging thing I've tried to do, especially when it comes to the simple choice of staying home from church. Part of the reason it is so important to me to learn how to be comfortable with who I am and the decisions I make, aside from the fact that guilt is a powerful, negative emotion, is that the underlying motivation of guilt is our innate concern as to what others think of us or our actions. Isn't that what guilt really is; worrying about what others think of us? Seems so to me.
So, why is it that I am so concerned about other's judgement when it comes to my attendance of church. Shouldn't it matter most to me the state of my relationship with Christ? Shouldn't my walk with God, my prayer life, and my commitment to serving God to the best of my ability be at the forefront? The bible does say to not forsake our own gathering together (Hebrews 10:25). Does this strictly refer to church attendance? Is there more than one way to gather together? What about family bible study, group study, meetings with friends, email discussion, or phone conversations? If we are continually striving toward a closer relationship with God and taking the time to connect with others, does that fit the bill?
It seems to me that the passage in Hebrews is more of a warning. Holing oneself up, and never communicating with others, is a dangerous place to put ourselves. Without the fellowship of others how would we truly learn and grow as individuals, let alone Christians? As humans, interaction with other is key to our health, both emotional and physical. We need each other. How else would we learn empathy and service? How would we be challenged? Who would lift us up in our darkest times? I would go so far as to venture to say that our relationships with each other are just as important as our relationship with Christ, as it is by our interactions with each other that we represent and experience the love of Christ in our daily lives.
I am going to continue to strive toward a guilt free relationship with church. It will not be easy, as it seems deep rooted, but I want my heart to pull me there through a longing to learn and share not a condemnation of doing something wrong if I'm not there. To everything there is a season, and time to every purpose under Heaven...(Ecclesasties 3:1-8)