Month: November 2014

How to Stop Feeling Guilty about not Working Hard Enough

Copyright Creationswap, image by Bogdan Kulyk.

Copyright Creationswap, image by Bogdan Kulyk.

If anyone wrote a book about my life, it would probably have the above title.

I have struggled with guilt my whole life, and a lot of it comes from the following mental gymnastics:

I imagine if I was an angel, looking at humans from heaven, I’d be like, “They have so much opportunity! Why don’t those comfortable people help those suffering people more? I would be a much better human then them.” (A friend pointed out to me the other day that this is a very judgmental angel. 🙂 )

I feel like a big part of the world’s problem is that the fortunate don’t help the unfortunate, and I don’t want to be like that. But then I’m always afraid that I’m not doing enough.

I mirrored this problem in my novel, Hating Jeremy Walters, where my main character, Natalie, always feels like she’s not working hard enough. The only difference is that she feels she must work hard to please God; I feel I must do lots of good stuff to prove I’m not selfish. But we’re pretty similar.

But I keep having a problem with Natalie. I know her thought patterns are wrong, but when I write out both sides of the argument she can always argue her wrong side better than my ‘good’ character can argue his right side.

I know my guilty way of thinking isn’t right, but to me, it just seems so logical.

This week God gave me an insight that probably seems totally obvious to everyone else—but for me it had to come from an imaginary conversation between two book characters.

This is a rough scene from the first draft of my book, where Natalie’s boyfriend, Jeremy, is asking her to cut back on her insane workload for the sake of children in her care. (Please don’t judge me on my dialogue; this is the roughest of the rough drafts!)

“Can’t you see that there’s different ways of pleasing God? Working like a crazy person is not one of them.” Jeremy ran his fingers through his hair and pulled, like he literally wanted to tear his hair out.

“You’re just saying that because you want me home more. I can’t give it up. That would be giving up on pleasing God. I couldn’t live with the guilt.”

“Why do you talk about all this guilt? You’re forgiven. Have you forgotten what that word means?”

“It doesn’t mean that I just live a selfish life for myself after I’m saved.”

Every time I thought about a different version of this conversation, this is where it ended. The “But I can’t be selfish/lazy!” line was the trump card. Jeremy’s comebacks never seemed convincing enough.

One day I ran the conversation through my head again, and when it got to this point, Jeremy got so frustrated that he stood up and yelled,

“But you refuse to admit there is a middle ground!”

And I stopped and thought, What? Then I projected myself into Natalie again.

“What?”

“You say that you can’t be lazy or selfish. But ‘not overworking’ doesn’t mean you’re lazy. It’s not one extreme or the other.”

“But I—”

“You also refuse to see that a striving spirit doesn’t bring God any glory. Actually, I think that de-prioritising relationships and justifying yourself through work is just as bad—or worse—than laziness.”

Natalie paused. Worse than laziness? Apart from the obvious things like murder, nothing was worse than laziness. But a comeback for Jem eluded her.

Yes! I finally shut her up!

Natalie still has some tough lessons to learn through the book, but at least I can finally figure out the ‘good’ side of the argument.

Yes, God doesn’t want us to be lazy. But neither does he want us to be striving, burned-out, duty-bound people who have no fun. That brings him zero glory, and we get really tempted to feel like our work justifies us instead of his grace.

I find it hard to walk the middle ground, and even when I strike the right balance I feel like it’s not enough. But I guess that’s why God gave us his Holy Spirit, to help point me the right way again.

It just makes me laugh when he uses imaginary characters to do it.

Can anyone else relate? What’s been an unusual light bulb moment for you? How do you deal with workaholism or guilt?

Join the conversation below!

 

 

How the Realness of Heaven Affects the Reality of Now

What will heaven be like?

Copyright Creationswap. Image by Michael Andrews of Cut Bank, MT, and Jason Rutel.

I have always hated discussing Revelations with my Christian friends.

I’ve been in the ‘as long as I get to heaven I don’t care about the details’ camp for years. Going into any more detail always raised questions and arguments and unpleasantness. But the past three weeks of Bible study have changed all that.

After going through Craig Groeschel’s ‘The End’ series, our group of twenty-somethings asked a bucket load of questions about what we do in heaven, how the end times will work, what happens when we die and more. We got honest answers from older members of our church, and the discussion has shifted my view on Revelations. It’s no longer weird and unfathomable—it’s a mind-blowing reinforcement of how much God loves us.

Three of the main points I took away from the study were that:

1. In heaven we will be in relationship with God;

2. We will glorify God;

3. We will have responsibilities or even ‘rule’; and,

4. Our actions on earth affect stuff in heaven (I think).

Now don’t ask me anything too specific about these points, because I don’t know exactly how it will work. But for me, these points are a big departure from most people’s childhood heavenly imaginings of an eternal church choir.

Let’s start with the first point; eternal relationship with God. I found this one hard to picture, but Craig Groeschel said something that helped. He said to picture your favourite moments in life. For me, I think of our Sunday afternoon family lunches at my uncles’ houses. I spent so many hours as a teenager eating BBQ chicken and chips at their homes, laughing at the family banter and listening to story after story.

Now, take that favourite moment, multiply it by a million and you’re still nowhere near to how good heaven will be. 

My puny brain cannot comprehend an eternity of relationship—if I’m honest, it sounds boring. But an eternity of Sunday lunches with my family and God? Now you’re talking!

For the second point—glorifying God—I picture a big concert. But I wonder if glorifying God isn’t just limited to singing? What if it’s also tied in with point three; heavenly responsibilities?

I have no idea if I’m way off base here, but when the Bible says we will ‘rule’, I picture a mix of Narnia and heavenly jobs. And if there’s jobs, that means there could be a possibility that I’ll be a heavenly writer.

YAY!!!

When I write, it feels like I’ve tapped into some trickle of a heavenly drug that says, ‘This is what you were born to do’. Even though I get plagued by insecurities about it all the time, I still know these fingers were made to type. So the image of heaven as the ultimate realisation of writing for God’s glory is a super exciting thought.

And this now leads me to point number 4—what we do on earth affects what responsibilities we are given in heaven.

Now, this is not something I’m certain about. But our study this week suggested it was a possibility. And I like the thought, because life on earth often feels so insignificant. I work so hard on my writing,  but there’s a chance no one will ever see it. And even if they do, will it impact them enough to be worth the pain of writing it? And just the effort of life in general; grocery shopping, going to work, ugh—what’s the point?

But this would indicate that the Christian life isn’t just the sinner’s prayer, and then a long wait for heaven. What we do now counts; it has meaning and purpose. My attitude matters and has flow-on effects, whether I’m grocery shopping, working, writing or doing whatever. I like to think that our lives have more significance than just the here and now.

But more important than any of my self-focused dreams of a fun heaven is the underlying theme beneath these four points; God loves us A LOT.

He’s not some superhero who rescues people and then disappears from their lives. He’s going to an amazing amount of effort to prepare a home for us to live with Him. It blows my mind that He not only agreed to spend eternity with us tiny little people, but He’s looking forward to it! The feeling I get from Revelations is that He can’t wait!

Wow. Just wow. You’re awesome, God.

A Real Author Is Looking At My Writing!

dfg

Did some serious writing this week.

Hey all—no official post this week, because I’ve been doing exciting things!

On Sunday I won an auction to have Christian author Cara Putman critique the first chapter and synopsis of my book, Hating Jeremy Walters! Needless to say, I was SUPER excited.

But…I didn’t actually have the chapter or synopsis written yet. (Well, I’d done first drafts 10 months ago, but I hadn’t re-written a good version.)

So I have done nothing this week except write, work, write, eat, sleep, write, write, write. And this morning, I finally hit SEND!

Big shout out to my amazing critique group, who answered my SOS call and critiqued about three times the usual word limit in a very short period of time.

I can’t wait to work with Cara and hear what advice she has to give me.

See you all next week!

 

How to Break the ‘Thankful’ Cliché

Copyright Creationswap. Image by Kevin Carden.

Copyright Creationswap. Image by Kevin Carden.

How many times have I heard the phrase ‘be thankful’?

Approximately 6,359,345,101.

Yes, it is a great philosophy. Yes, it is biblical.  Yes, it’s a wise way to live. But do you want to know why I’ve never tried very hard to apply it?

Because by the time I say, “Thank-you God for saving me, thanks for my family, thanks that I have food and a house…” I feel like I’m three years old, I’m bored, and I don’t see the point of what looks like an exercise in stating the obvious.

I know I take these things for granted. When I was in India, (and that was only a 2 ½ week trip), I was instantly thankful for my Aussie house, food etc. But when I live in Australia every day, it is difficult to sustain excitement over things I’ve always had and am likely to (well, hopefully) always have in the future. The worst part is, God gets lumped in with those things I take for granted.

So how do I practice thankfulness without feeling like a living, breathing cliché?

I think the God part of it could be tied to the idea of ‘longing for God’.

It’s a thought that came up at Bible study on Tuesday. Our group is doing a study on the end times and it mentioned how some Christians long for God’s return so that they can spend forever with Him. And I thought, ‘Huh?’

Sure, I look toward heaven with pleasant anticipation. But it’s mostly for selfish reasons, like how everything will be awesome there. It’s not really because I long to spend time with God. And a few of my Bible study mates said the same thing.

So how do I cultivate a longing for God? I think that would have a big impact on the thankfulness thing, because if I long for God then I’m definitely not taking Him for granted.

So…how do I do it?

This isn’t one of those blog posts with answers. It’s one with a question. I’m asking you.

I have a couple of ideas I plan to try. There are some beautiful Psalms (today’s was Ps 63) that talk about the Psalmist’s desperate desire for God. I’ll read those and meditate on them.

And I’ll put a sticky note on my desk so that I remember God during the day and think to myself, “God, I love being with you and I look forward to being with You forever.”

But the plan doesn’t extend far beyond that.

So what about you? Have you ever thought about this? Do you have any ideas? What do you do to be thankful in your own life? Share in the comments below!