Sunday, February 12, 2012

Shame vs. Conviction

First, I want to introduce you to a new friend of mine, Melissa.  We met when she joined us for dinner at our house a few weeks ago.  In the course of explaining why we were only having ham, sweet potatoes, and biscuits, we shared with her about FFE.  I am delighted to share that she is launching her own 7 month fast from excess – beginning tomorrow!  Hop on over to her blog and encourage her in her journey.  I am so tickled to have played a small part in getting someone else launched on a similar path.

This post has been on my heart for a while.  At various times I’ve been told, it’s been implied, or I have just pondered how those who are following our journey are feeling.  I don’t want to jump to conclusions, but I can speak of my personal experience of reading Jen Hatmaker’s book, 7:  An Experiment Mutiny against Excess.  This is the book that, by the Spirit, set this thing in motion for us.  As I read it, I was alternately challenged, offended, inspired, ashamed, and convicted.  I thought she was weird in the best possible ways.  I would not and could not recreate her experience, but I did want to adopt and adapt her “experimental mutiny” to our own lives.  To be honest, after reading her book, it didn’t really even feel like an option not to do something.  It was a calling that was unequivocal and unavoidable…for me and for Tom.  I have only been “called” in a similar way two other times – to adopt and to move from our previous home to our current home.  I can only describe the feeling as a knowing that comes with a certain giddiness.

Fasting from Excess is not a calling that is for everyone.  It is deeply personal.  Some part of me hopes that that anyone following along with us will feel similar feelings to those I experienced reading Jen’s book.  I want to speak to two of the most powerful feelings I had as I read:  shame and conviction.  Her profound and challenging insights into the intermingling of American consumerism and the American Christian church made me squirm even as I Amen-ed.  Her distinction between a want-fueled American economy and God’s economy made me mad, defensive, and ultimately heartbroken. 

I first went to a place of feeling ashamed and guilty.  But, here’s the thing my life’s experience has taught me about shame.  If you are a squatter in the land of shame, you are stuck in victimhood.  That is not of God.  God is a God of grace, forgiveness, redemption and hope.  He transformed shame to glory on the cross.  The guilt and shame I felt in reading Jen’s book was not intended by God to leave me swirling in my “embarrassment of riches.”  I believe God’s intent was to transform those feelings into something more powerful, more freeing, and more holy – conviction.

Let’s talk about shame versus conviction.  Shame says I am stuck.  Conviction says the here and now is unacceptable and stirs me to action.  Shame says I am guilty.  Conviction says the Lord will redeem my guilt for something better.  Shame says I have no choices.  Conviction lets me stare the ugly truth in the face and see opportunity. 

And now, for my ugly truth.  This weekend I went through my closet and counted – clothes, shoes, jackets, socks, undies.  I guessed 183 items.  I was wrong.  By a lot.  The truth?  257.  I guessed for Tasha too before we counted.  Guess:  280.  Truth:  334.  Sydney and Cate guessed 377 and 350 respectively.  They didn’t finished counting because the truth was staring them in the face.  Tom, my dear Tom, was both more accurate and more modest in his tally.  I think it was around 175. 

This closet audit led to a talk about the difference between shame and conviction.  Cate was convinced that this was an exercise on my part to make her feel guilty.  She said, “Mom, this is just like the thing with the socks!” {For the back story, see this post.}  Nothing, and I mean nothing, could be further from the truth.  It was an exercise in conviction spurring action.  It was a chance to redeem excess by spotting a beautiful opportunity to spend our excess on behalf of others.  Next weekend Tom and I will have the emptiest closet we have probably ever had in our married life.  We will work with our girls to go through all of their clothes.  I will not cajole or strong arm our girls into giving more than they are inclined to give.  I want their own conviction to take them where it will.

For my friends out there who feel stirred by our Fast from Excess, please, please, do not to squat in the land of shame and guilt.  Seek God and ask what He would have you do with the stirrings in your heart.  If it’s simply to read and question – you will know.  If it’s to pray and encourage us – we are grateful.  If it’s to fast from one thing – He will use that in wonderful, unexpected ways.  If it’s something more – to Him be the glory.

1 comment:

  1. SO good! I may have to write my own version of this at some point...this is definitely the point and people have already brought these things up to me. I was so utterly convicted in my lifestyle that I wondered how long I should give myself to prepare myself before starting! I just had to do something! Today is day ONE...I am beginning this in both excitement and fear! But with so much hope that God is going to mold me into someone who looks more like him! Thanks for the shout out :) Maybe after I'm done with FOOD, we could have lunch and discuss???