Black or white.
Right or left.
All or nothing.
That seems to be the way my mind works. And most of the time, I don't realize I'm completely leaning one way until God uses something to smack me up the head and make me see more clearly. To be truthful, I try to examine myself pretty regularly; I question my motives, hoping to maintain a balance.
And then God enlightens me in one way or another and shows me how I'm just standing all in the white or all in the black. And I haven't even noticed.
Are you thoroughly confused? Unless you've experienced the "all or nothing" phenomenon as your own character trait, you probably are clueless. Here is a good example:
Selfishly spending money vs. giving it all away and living in poverty. For a good while, I recommended Francis Chan's book, Crazy Love. I rarely do now without a disclaimer before my guarded recommendation speech. Why? It's not because the book wasn't intriguing, challenging, motivating, and an easy read! To tell you the truth, the book did a lot for me. I could hardly put it down! It opened my eyes in so many ways; it convicted me and called me to live outside my comfort zone. His words inspired me to give back more to the Lord.
While those things are all fantastic, if you're like I am and are easily swayed by guilt, this book can also take you down a road of questioning and self deprecation.
All-or-nothing mentality + giving issues + guilt issues = diasaster!
And don't get me wrong- I don't believe at all that Chan wrote his book with his motive for change or his desired byproduct to be guilt. But if you're already wired with this slightly faulty guilt gene that sparks quite frequently, this book's content and that trait can cause quite a mental confusion.
Francis Chan has set an incredible example by the spending of his personal finances. (He is a millionaire, yet drives a beaten down car, moves to a foreign country to give back, etc). His efforts are to be commended, and certainly anyone who mirrors this fashion of giving and selflessness is someone I'd like to shake hands with. However, weeks (maybe months?) after I finished his book, I couldn't help but wonder if the Lord was going to be disappointed in me on judgment day for not selling my house, buying a shack in the ghetto, and giving my money away. After all, Francis Chan did it. Shouldn't we all be living in the slums together, donating all our money to the homeless shelter? The voices in my head criticized me for every little purchase, chastising me for spending any amount of money where it could have been donated to a child in need. The motive for my giving was not always a desire to cheerfully give to please the Lord and help others, but a nagging guilt that urged me to give so I might diminish God's level of disappointment with me in the end.And do you know what God thinks about motives? A LOT. I'm thinking of the cheerful giver and the clanging gong at this moment.I was a begrudged, uncheerful giver who was basically just making a lot of noise for no reason, most of the time.
Then God showed me that I didn't have to swing all the way left or all the way right. If he'd called me there, I would be there now. But, instead, God opened my eyes and gave me enlightement, covered with peace. He imparted to me that I don't have to move into a box in a dark alley to please Him. I don't have to give up my safe minivan for an untrustworthy, cheap hunk-of-junk just because it was frugal. No. He is asking me to give where I've been given. He's asking me to spend wisely what he's blessed me with. Does that mean I can't have a new hairbrush when mine breaks into 3 pieces, but still can brush hair? No! But it also means I don't have to have a $75 hairbrush. (Do they even make those?) Does that mean I can't do Christmas presents for my family? No. It means spend wisely and remember those around me who truly need to be blessed with something this season. It means to not live extravagantly, but purposefully and with a desire to selflessly serve. It means keeping my eyes open to serve where God calls me. Now I try to look for opportunities to bless others when God puts them in my path. If he calls me to sell my house, move to Africa in a hut, and give the money to a local charity, then that's what I'll do (But he'll need to make this really clear since I don't know anything about Africa except that they eat bugs on the Discovery Channel.) But he hasn't called me there yet, so I'm going to walk where he's leading, trusting that he's teaching my heart to learn and love selflessness along the way.
Another facet of my all-or-nothing-mentality was that I used to think I had to financially help everyone. (See how that works? I either need to help EVERY needy person I come in contact with or none at all.) But, God--oh how he is patient with me! He whacked me upside the head and said, "I'm not calling you to hand out $100 bills to everyone. But I may ask you to give $10 to this cause, $25 to this one, a warm meal to another, a phone call to this friend, and a coat from our closet to another." It can also mean giving my time and energy to those who need it--my children, my husband, a friend, a relative. I cannot be all for everyone, but I can be something for several. And if I'm living withing God's will, then guilt cannot reign over my intentions and actions. The peace of God kicked that to the curb.
Believe it or not, this post was going to be about Christmas and the way I found myself sitting in black, all the while trying to avoid sitting in white. *sigh* But bedtime was a long time ago on the clock and this preggo girl is getting in bed! More on my Christmas epiphanies later...