‘Never give your hearts to this world or to any of the things in it. A man cannot love the Father and love the world at the same time. For the whole world-system, based as it is on men’s primitive desires, their greedy ambitions and the glamour of all that they think splendid, is not derived from the Father at all, but from the world itself.’
1 John 2:15-16, JB Phillips
I am trying, albeit rather slowly, to maintain ongoing household organising. I figure this will help with easing the pressure on me and my health, which can so easily become a negative loop, e.g. I’m not well so I don’t do what I would otherwise do, when I’m feeling better I get on with it because I hate looking at it, then I do too much and find myself unwell again (and when I say unwell, I mean more or less bedridden, which in itself is frustrating, as some of my readers who are not in good health will also appreciate). The one thing one cannot help but learn from illness is patience because, like it or not, you’re stuck, and while I am steadily learning how to manage my condition, there are many, many other lessons to learn along the way. After patience comes trust – because when I am laid low who else can I trust but God? When I can hardly move, what have I left except God? This is not complaint. It has helped me to be less distracted, more focused on the things that matter.
Jesus had such kind words when he spoke to someone worrying over these same things:
‘As they continued their journey, Jesus came to a village and a woman called Martha welcomed him to her house. She had a sister by the name of Mary who settled down at the Lord’s feet and was listening to what he said. But Martha was very worried about her elaborate preparations and she burst in, saying, “Lord, don’t you mind that my sister has left me to do everything by myself? Tell her to get up and help me!”
But the Lord answered her, “Martha, my dear, you are worried and bothered about providing so many things. Only a few things are really needed, perhaps only one. Mary has chosen the best part and you must not tear it away from her!”’
Luke 10:38-42, JB Phillips
The only person putting so much pressure on poor Martha was Martha herself. Jesus simply wanted to be welcomed. He didn’t care what the house was like, or whether there was fancy food to eat. He just wanted to share himself, to spend time with this family.
Another time Jesus was with his disciples:
‘Then someone out of the crowd said to him, “Master, tell my brother to share his legacy with me.”
But Jesus replied, “My dear man, who appointed me a judge or arbitrator in your affairs?”
And then, turning to the disciples, he said to them, “Notice that, and be on your guard against covetousness in any shape or form. For a man’s real life in no way depends upon the number of his possessions.”
Luke 12:13-15, JB Phillips
“That is why I tell you, don’t worry about life… stop bothering about what clothes you will need. Life is much more important than food, and the body more important than clothes… Can any of you make himself an inch taller however much he worries about it? And if you can’t manage a little thing like this, why do you worry about anything else? …If God so clothes the grass, which flowers in the field today and is burnt in the stove tomorrow, is he not much more likely to clothe you, you little-faiths? You must not set your heart on what you eat or drink, nor must you live in a state of anxiety …set your heart on his kingdom, and your food and drink will come as a matter of course… For wherever your treasure is, you may be certain that your heart will be there too!”
From Luke 12:22-34, JB Phillips
In light of Jesus’ teachings, and what I have been learning over the past few years, I have been trying to follow FlyLady’s routines, as best I am able. FlyLady is wonderful if, like me, you have struggled with co-dependency type thinking. What we need more than anything (co-dependent or not) is to just do what we can do and not worry about the rest. I want to streamline my life, to simplify every aspect, so that there is less stuff – physically, emotionally and spiritually. In one of today’s emails, FlyLady writes about decluttering one’s house:
‘When you love what you have and use what you love; it is not clutter.
It is the things that we have stashed in drawers that is the waste of money but I don’t want you to beat yourself up over this. The biggest waste of all is guilt!
Declutter your guilt and get on with the living!’
I think I hear an ‘Amen’! Christians are so good at getting distracted by ‘clutter’! We worry about whether we believe the ‘right’ thing, say the ‘right’ thing, do the ‘right’ thing. Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, God is not in the business of making you feel bad.
Jesus did not suffer on the cross so that you could feel guilty and ashamed and beat yourself up over what you have not achieved, or the life you don’t live. Is not his gift worth more than that? Christ’s sacrifice demands our respect: live your life and live it well. Love as he loved; live as he lived.
‘The thief comes only in order to steal and kill and destroy. I came that they may have and enjoy life, and have it in abundance (to the full, till it overflows).’
John 10:10 (Amplified)
So what is the purpose of guilt if not to beat yourself up with? I am convinced that it is there for God, by his Holy Spirit, to instill within me an awareness of my wrongdoing, of my sin. I feel regret, or repentance, but this is not to beat myself up with; it is to warn me and to motivate me both to seek more of Jesus (being sinless), and to desire to change. Anything beyond that is not of God. Guilt and shame are a vicious circle. I am still learning how to say ‘no’ to guilt. It is not easy! Disabling guilt is such a common thing in one’s Christian walk. Guilt about reading the bible, guilt about not doing enough at church/in the home/with my family/at work/in the community… It is not that these things are wrong, but if you do things because you feel guilty, you won’t get very far. God doesn’t want you to do things because you feel you ought to. God wants you to trust and to follow where he leads. You will know what is being asked of you – and you will know, too, that while God expects no less than what he asks of you, he also does not expect more.
‘This doesn’t mean, of course, that we have only a hope of future joys—we can be full of joy here and now even in our trials and troubles. Taken in the right spirit these very things will give us patient endurance; this in turn will develop a mature character, and a character of this sort produces a steady hope, a hope that will never disappoint us. Already we have some experience of the love of God flooding through our hearts by the Holy Spirit given to us.’
Romans 5:3-5, JB Phillips