Monday, July 20, 2009

The Wrath to Come

I want to be a great ancestor. One of the most important ways to leave a great legacy for my children, grand children and great grand children is to have a clean conscience myself. As Hebrews 12:12-15 notes, a "root of bitterness causes troubles and defiles many generations..."

Bitterness takes root in my heart any time there is a lack of grace toward myself an/or others. One of my childhood habits, and a very bad habit, was to beat myself up every time I messed up, sinned or failed. I have a strong motivation to succeed. I desperately wanted to win, be perfect and never stumble. Needless to say, I failed at that goal often. Perfect I am not.

I had a faulty Belief System that said "Gary, you should be perfect and could be perfect if you tried hard enough." It did not help that my dearest Grand Mother, Mom Taylor who was my substitute Mother and my spiritual Mother, was a member of the Holiness groups who firmly held that perfection was not only possible but attainable. This doubled down on my genetic personality of trying harder but it just magnified my failures and the shame they brought to me.

I became an expert in self shaming. I had some favorite self talk that helped me along the way.

You are stupid
You will never amount to anything
You are an awful student and will always fail
People are laughing at you

The fact that I was the valedictorian in elementary school made no difference to my self talk and could not change my beliefs. The fact that I had a straight A average did not matter. This way of thinking and self talking brought about an emotional volcano inside. I hated myself and was constantly angry at others because they were always putting me down. (I was very suspicious and even paranoid.)

I developed a root of bitterness toward myself and other people because I lacked the ability to judge myself with grace instead of justice. Justice is getting what I deserve because of my Guilt. At every failure and sinful act I meted out strict Justice. Because I so feared the wrath of God's Justice I hurriedly beat myself as a way of saying to God, "You won't have to beat me and punish me because I have already done it to myself." But that did not relieve my anxiety about God's wrath so I had my wrath and God's wrath to fear.

This is not, of course, a recipe for a legacy of love, hope and peace. It is a prescription for disaster. How did I get better? How did I develop faith, hope and love? Stop in again soon and find out.


Vicar of Vincennes said...

this kind of help is what you used to deliver me from myself Gary, and I am still grateful. My! What a different person I have become since I was truly freed by coming to understand the grace of God. Yippee! I am still rejoicing and it has been years. Now if you talk to my religious friends they will tell you that whatever date I was freed...that date coincides with the day they claim that I backslid?! I love it!!

Gary Sweeten said...

Vicar, There is nothing like having all the religious guys think I am leading people astray so they backslide and accept God's grace. An old friend shared his excitement about a new church he was attending and invited him to attend with his family. The brother said, "They believe in grace don't they?"

My friend said, "Yes, they do." He replied, "Well, nothing will happen to bring people to christ."

This is tragic, isn't it? Keep on singing amazing grace and I will join in the chorus.