The Traveller’s Rest- Time Out from Guilt Giving Activities.

Disastrous Disciplines …

I soon discovered in my Christian walk that I was a bit of a failure. I loved Jesus, was excited about the prospect of living for Him and was burning with a passion to follow Him wherever that would take me. But I had a few problems that would remain private failings for many years, because I was recognised as having a call on my life, went to Bible college to train for so called ministry and then became a local church Pastor. I really struggled with the disciplines of the Christian walk. Those things that I must be doing to show my love for Jesus and to reveal my maturity. If I was a serious disciple of Jesus then I would allow my life to mirror that commitment. I was taught early on to cultivate a good private prayer life, to read my Bible every day, to never miss a meeting because I needed the fellowship and teaching, to tell someone else about Jesus and not be ashamed to share, to always seek His presence through worship and to always give ten per cent of my wages or earnings (before tax of course for the really committed). Talk about so much stuff to load on the guilt. I was rubbish at connecting through my prayer life. The message seemed to be to at least spend an hour a day because the disciples got told off for not doing that in the garden. An hour!!!! I could hardly make ten minutes without distractions or sleep kicking in. I struggled for years trying to use daily readings, trying to play worship music in the background, walking the streets, getting up early (another expectation, especially on leaders), none of this worked for me. All it did was rack up the guilt. What kind of Christian was I to not even be able to pray? Those you spoke to always seemed to be prayer warriors or intercessors. Hallelujah, what a failure. Added to this I could not get into reading the Word every day. In college we were expected to read the whole of the Bible in a year. I spent the whole year playing catch up. Many days I would miss altogether. Not because I did not love the stories or get anything from it, but I was not a natural reader. I had hardly read a whole book in my life at that point. It has to really grip me to get me to read it all the way through. Leviticus, Numbers etc. Sorry but they bored me to death. What a failure, especially when I am preaching the Word to others, encouraging them to live the disciplines, and I can hardly do it myself. Tell someone about Jesus! Even a stranger on a bus or a doorstep or on the streets? Forget it! I am not the greatest conversationalist with people until I really get to know them so to do this scared the shit out of me. I have never got my Bible out to read it on the bus, never mind start giving my testimony. What a failure! I detested doing door to door, I hated doing questionnaires, I would rather keep myself to myself on a plane.  Disastrous disciplines… All these books I was supposed to read about people who prayed hours a day who would see miracles. People who immersed themselves in the Word and witnessed to anything that moved. None of this was my story. The guilt I carried was immense. What a failure. I am sure I am not the only one who has felt like this.

The Walk of Life.

But I no longer feel guilty. I refuse to take that crap into my life. Guilt is not a gift from God. His yoke is easy and His burden is light, so if I feel too much pressure about anything then it is not from God. Now some people may find the disciplines easy, well good for you, but please do not put your easy success on my shoulders to carry. I refuse to feel the pressure to perform any more. I refuse to allow what I seemingly fail in to write me off. I am a child of God and for Him I have discovered that is enough. He never created us to compartmentalise our lives with times of prayer, times of worship, times of evangelism, times of seeking Him. These are all disciplines and ways of life that have nothing to do with walking and dwelling with our creator day by day. Instead of getting hold of new converts and telling them they must pray, they must read the Word, they must come to church, we need to start revealing to them how to connect with God through every day life. Stop loading them with expectations of what makes a good Christian and therefore lining them up for success or failure. Do the stuff and God approves, don’t do the stuff and God thinks you are not as worthy of blessing. We need to learn what Brother Lawrence did, that life is continual conversation with God. Not in talking to Him all the time, but walking with Him. Calvin Miller said ‘even as you sojourn while walking. you are talking to God’. Clement of Alexandria simply put it this way, prayer is just ‘keeping company with God’.  He is there in the walk of life. I find myself chatting away all of the time, listening all of the time, then if neither happens, just dwelling and being all of the time. I may go for weeks without having a ‘dear Lord Jesus’ moment. I never set any time aside. I refuse to carry the weight of failed disciplines. I just live and love, and I have found he just lives and loves with me too. This is something of praying continually rather than having a time of prayer. The Bible I read when I want to rather than because I have to because I believe I have hidden His Word in my heart that I may not sin against Him. Evangelism is not a planned event, but my feet are shod with the Gospel of peace. Wherever I walk I carry good news, even when I am silent. I do not feel the urge to give my testimony in the first five minutes of a conversation in case that person dies and goes to hell. I just live amongst humanity and talk about life and then if the conversation steers in a natural way to talk about faith and life I will gladly do that, and it is surprising how often the situation arises. But I refuse to feel guilty about not getting the name Jesus into every conversation. Get off my back Mr Perfect Christian.

Get The Monkey Off The Back.

I now feel so free. I love my walk in Him, my daily walk. It is not measured in success and failure of my disciplines, just measured in how He loves me full stop. It is not about if He hears my voice or I hear His, it is about being in each others company. Just being. We love having measuring lines that reveal maturity and depth of a Christian walk, but surely Jesus came to free us from all that. He came so it would not be about memorizing Scripture verses about Him, or attending a building religiously, or having to pray out into space to connect with Him. When the curtain was torn we entered in, or even He entered into our lives. We do not need special songs or gatherings to meet with Jesus, we just need to wake up. My attendance does not reveal my maturity of walk with Him any more than praying for an hour, telling someone about Jesus or reading a chapter a day. It was drummed into going without prayer for seven days makes one weak. Now the monkey is off my back I have never felt so strong and assured in my faith or walk with Him. Never felt like I could fly like I could right now. There is a lightness in my spirit that never existed for many years of struggle with the disciplines. I no longer live the life of a covered up failure, not allowing others to really see how pathetic I was. I feel free to be honest, and walk in the honesty, believing that God appreciates that so much. That to me is the truth that will set us free. I have taken a time out from guilt giving activities, and I now feel like a total winner.

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3 thoughts on “The Traveller’s Rest- Time Out from Guilt Giving Activities.

  1. Wol Ulchabhan

    Ah yes! Been there, done that and ot the t-shirt! What you have shared is greatly needed! And there is the flip-side too: Those who managed to do most if not all those “Timothy Disciple Course” things (very popular over here). Maybe, MAYBE a FEW came out of it for the better, but I have my doubts. I suspect most came out with an applied confident arrogance veneer that hid many things. Oh, I could play the game, mostly . . .but there was still a world of Guilt, Shame & Fear hidden deep inside. I quit playing the game . . . due in part to Holy Spirit broke the game board and pulled back the curtain, exposing the human behind, operating the machinery. I would love to say that all is better, that everything is solved. But that would not be honest. I still struggle but there is freedom to be open, vulnerable and honest about it all: The victories, the failures. The Joy. The pain. It is Life not arranged on my terms, but Life that is Free, open and wild. Aslan refuses to be tamed . . . and I am learning to accept everything that comes my way, learning to live well loved and learning to love well.

    Reply
  2. Huw P L Thomas

    Have you only now discovered this Paul? I have not been involved in the formalities of ‘church life’ for over twelve years now but I feel so close to the Lord. I hear on the Christian grapevine that I’m backslidden and living in sin (Mandy and I have not signed the dotted line) and yet the Lord seems to be saying, well, not a lot really. No pangs of guilt and importantly, nothing in the Word about dotted lines, only legitimate relationships. I read the Word intensely, not because I have to but because Jesus tells me that the truth will set me free and it has and to be honest I love Leviticus as much as Luke and digging into the depths of Deuteronomy gives me joy as much as John. Not because it’s some sort of rule book like the Quran but an insight into us and our failings and God’s dealings with us in grace and judgement. Some think (especially in Christian circles) that I am boasting about knowledge etc when I mention reading the Bible in the original languages but that is not the case. I just want to get to grips with God’s story and what he is teaching and telling us in that ancient library. Only the other day I was reading the story of Nabal and his wife Abigail and their dealings with David in 1 Samuel. It made me smile when David became furious with Nabal and said that he would kill all the men in his clan but he referred to them in Hebrew contemptuously as ‘pissers against the wall’ . The Septuagint gives us the word – urine. Many times ‘feet’ is a euphemism for penis. Now when I read how Ruth uncovered Boaz’ feet I see it in a different light. When Joshua tells his people to ‘be bold’, in the Septuagint it literally means ‘man up’. Getting beyond the constraints and bias of translators and centuries of imposed Greek theology opens up a whole world of biblical wonder.
    As for prayer, like you I have always found it difficult to prayer formally. Just today, as I was traveling to work I started talking with the Lord but after a while my mind began to drift and my tongue went into automatic (It also happens sometimes when I pray in tongues) and I had to stop myself and apologise to the Lord. This reluctance to want to pray used to bother me, especially as Paul tells us to pray without ceasing. Then it clicked. Prayer is an attitude and an awareness of God’s presence in our lives – all the time.
    I also hated ‘witnessing’ in the formal sense of harassing people or knocking on doors. In Bible college I loathed that door to door trip to Gainsborough in first year. Days of prayer and fasting bored me senseless, as did prayer meetings in church.
    You and I have a lot in common, along with a lot of others in church circles, if only they would admit it.

    Reply
  3. Pam Cooke

    THANK YOU! THANK YOU! THANK YOU, Paul! I felt such a lightness in my spirit on reading this blog! Thank you for redressing the balance from what many of us had drummed into us for years! Like Saul’s armour, ‘It just didn’t fit’-all that brownie point regime! Please keep writing reality like this & surely we’ll see the shackles fall off the church SOON!!
    Pam Cooke
    Preston

    Reply

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