Thursday, May 26, 2011

Is Guilt the Mark of a Woman?

It seems to be the universal mark of a woman...guilt. We feel guilty for being too much. We feel guilty for not being enough. We feel guilty for being too busy to spend quality time with our family, and we feel guilty for not being more involved at work, at church, in our community, etc. Men experience this too, but it seems less prominent and less frequent.

For the first three years that Scott and I were married (we’ll celebrate four years this August), I worked and went to school full time. I was proud of myself for pushing through (it felt like I had arrived in the “strong women” club), but I was exhausted and most of the time felt guilty for not taking better care of myself and my new husband. Tack on to that that after we had been married for barely a year and three weeks we had our sweet Laurelei. I wanted to finish school to be an example to her never to quit, and I needed to work to pay for school…I felt guilty every day that I dropped her off at daycare. My heart ached for her, and when I would get home I would wait until after she went to bed to start my school work so I didn’t feel like I was stealing time from her. I was tired, and I was guilty.

Since January I have been able to be a total stay-at-home mom. This is the blessing that I had been praying for, and I know many women desire. It required some financial cutbacks (American life is definitely tailored to the 2+ income family), but I felt like now was my opportunity to get more involved with my church. I have an incredible church family (www.CelebrationChurchTx.com), and there is never a shortage of places to get plugged in and participate!

Then I became pregnant again (another blessing that we prayed for), and my body became so weary that I wasn’t able to do more than hopefully attend Sunday mornings and take care of my family. God has over and over again soothed my heart to remind me that if I am living only to please Him that I will not be overworked and overcommitted because I will have the grace to do all the things that He asks of me, nothing more.

In the past few months God has really been revealing to me people that I know and love that I want them to take care of themselves because of the primary role that they fill. For example, think of our firefighters…people sometimes complain that they get to play video games on shift and sleep at work, but when there is any sort of emergency situation firefighters are first on scene. Whether I have just been in a terrible wreck, my child is experiencing some type of emergency, or I am trapped inside a burning building…I am thankful that these men and women are knowledgeable, capable, and of-sound mind to calmly help me through what needs to be done, and carefully but swiftly care for mine and my family’s life. I don’t want them to be stressed out when they arrive at a car wreck and my car is upside down against a median, I want them to be well rested and well taken care of…and I am thankful for all the first responders…I want them to enjoy their life and be filled up so to speak because in an emergency situation we benefit from their wholeness.

…I should add that I am a little biased in this area – my husband, Dad, and father-in-law are all Austin Firefighters, but the principle also applies to…

My pastor. I think of how much Pastor Joe and Lori pour into our congregation. Speak with them once and you will realize how everyone around them is just blessed by their presence. God has given them a gift to love and minister to people, to speak into their lives, to motivate and inspire, and surprisingly to remember and love on a huge congregation! Our church is definitely bustling with activity day in and day out to reach people for Jesus all over the Austin-metro area, and to take care of the flock…I want both of them and the truly many more people that pastor and take care of behind the scenes logistics that make our church function…I want them to be well taken care of. I want them to be loved on and do what they need to do to keep in good health, to be spiritually full, because otherwise we will breakdown. Or worse, especially in the church, we can become so task focused and busy that we forget that it is really about people and the call of Christ and seeking Him starts to break down.

Or my counselor. I have an amazing woman that I seek counsel from, and we have shared this struggle with guilt as well. I think of how she allows me a safe place to deal with struggles, how she prays for me, how she pours into me, and how her being submitted to God in that way allows me to be a whole person for my husband, daughter, baby, and friends. I am truly thankful that she doesn’t allow the guilt to burden her so greatly that she becomes overcommitted and ceases to take care of herself.

Or my mom. Even now, at 25, I still need my mom. And her taking care of herself and pouring the Word into her life and praying allows her to speak life into me and my sister. Which brings me back to me…God is really showing me that I need to unburden myself of this guilt the enemy keeps trying to place upon me. I need to be quiet to discern His voice and be what He has called me to be, and I need to take care of myself so that I am able to fulfill the call that He has given me.

It is interesting in this age of entitlement that shame and guilt are so prominent as well. This care of oneself is very different from feeling entitled to special treatment. I am tempted to feel entitled to get my hair and nails done (which I love), but that is not it either, and when God does bless me with these things I don’t have to feel guilty about the expense because there are other needs in the world.

A wise woman told me once that we can’t focus on the need because there will always be need. Satan wants to use that to get tender-hearted people distracted and torn up inside. We must focus on the Provider because He knows where we need to be and what we have been gifted to do, and He will show us our place. We must take care of ourselves and fill ourselves with His word and allow Him to nurture our hearts and minds so that we are able to fulfill the great calling He has given us.
As a fellow follower of the Lord, I “appeal and beg you to walk (lead a life) worthy of the [divine] calling to which you have been called [with behavior that is a credit to the summons of God’s service].” –Ephesians 4:1

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