Random Blog Clay Feet: November 13, 2008
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Thursday, November 13, 2008

Heart Talk and Worship

I just had a discussion with someone that opened my eyes a little bit more as to how much I am still influenced by my old problem of image management – living in such a way as to influence what others think about me. As I thought about it more this morning I also realized that this is one of the greatest inhibitions preventing me from being able to worship God freely as my heart desires to do.

In the culture in which I grew up and am still a part of to a great extent, there are some things about expressive worship that by many people in my culture are considered too far outside the box to be acceptable. Oh, they may or may not say something about it to me, but it is sufficient that inside my own mind the accusations and subtle feelings of condemnation are very present and effective. So generally, I don't feel the freedom to worship as my heart needs to unless I am in a completely different culture – which then presents its own different set of inhibitions – or more likely when I am totally alone.

Actually I am very resentful in a way, of this state of affairs. And I suspect God is not real pleased about it either. For if the worship that is due Him and that connects our hearts to each other is being short-circuited by the false gods of image management and men-pleasing, then in fact I am being controlled and am serving false gods in violation of the second commandment.

I became aware of this sinful condition in my life a couple years ago and wrote extensively about it then. I also think that my awareness of this state of my heart has at least help me to make some progress toward freedom, but I still have a long way to go. And it will not help to simply try to lay a guilt trip on myself in an attempt to shame or frighten me into changing the way I act and think. That is the counterfeit religious practice of my past that I am determined to turn away from. But at the same time I must be willing to accept both the attractions and convictions of the Holy Spirit and also the warnings that alert me to the tragic consequences that are inevitable if I refuse to submit to coming into harmony with the principles of reality as revealed by God.

I, like everyone else, am designed and wired at the deepest level of my psyche to worship. And I, like everyone else, will worship quite frequently even though it is not generally labeled with that term. But the more I understand the truth and substance of what makes up worship, the more I become aware that far too much of my worship is going to the wrong places. I am giving too much authority to false gods in my life, and as a result I have no room to view critically or harshly those in the Old Testament who worshiped idols and think how silly they were. When the light of truth begins to expose my own futile practices of living in fear of what others think of me instead of living in joyful service to my Creator and Savior, then I have joined them in their disloyalty and idol worship and am in need of repentance just as much as they were.

I do not want to keep hiding from this problem. I (at least a part of me) do not want to keep resisting the promptings of the Holy Spirit to be more open and honest in all areas of my life. I realize that I have some very intense areas of blindness in my thinking, but I continue to ask God to open my eyes and show me what I normally cannot see. I believe that this is just one of those blind spots that He is trying to get me to face more directly.

I actually feel very encouraged by this conversation I just had that helped me remember and see better this problem in my life. I feel encouraged in a strange sort of way when I see some of my faults because I know that God is showing them to me because He cares enough to offer me healing and restoration in that area if I am willing to accept and apply His grace to my heart.

During the discussion I was able to actually peek into some of the feelings behind my actions and inhibitions and realize that what I am doing much of the time is trying to avoid shame. Shame and fear are two of the greatest inhibitors in my life and are some of the worst slave-masters that keep me from enjoying the true freedom of the sons of God. Even many of my diversionary temptations are targeted at helping me to avoid facing the shame and fears that still lurk in the background and affect so much of my thinking and my relationships with others. My desires to watch movies are deeply rooted in trying to use pleasure produced vicariously through artificial emotional stimulation as a means of masking my real need to address the much deeper roots of shame and fear that haunt me from the background atmosphere of my soul.

But it is up to me to exercise my power of choice to face these things and to fast from anything that I may be using to avoid facing them. As long as I resort to anything that may help me procrastinate facing the inner pain of my past, the resentment that I carry toward others, the shame that is still so prevalent from my childhood and the fears that haunt me from the residual lies about God in my heart – as long as I allow those diversions to satisfy my hunger for real freedom I will remain in the slavery of bondage to those things even though I may feel like I am free on the surface.

The symptoms of that bondage can be seen in the inhibitions at the gut level that still bind me to the manipulation of what others think of me. I may be ever so independent in many ways and believe that what others think about me has little influence over my choice to live outside the box that others are trapped within. But in deeper ways that is still a mirage in many respects. At the heart level I still crave acceptance and affirmation and to be valued and appreciated by others. I suppose in some ways there is nothing wrong with those desires except when they cause me to subtly seek satisfaction for these needs from others above seeking God's face and believing in how He truly feels about me.

As I was sharing in my conversation, shame is one of the primary emotions that I still don't have very much skill in dealing with effectively yet. When I first became aware of the enormous influence and presence of shame in my life some time ago I was shocked at how much it controlled my thinking and my relationships with others. That is still true today, but it is very difficult to perceive it most of the time because it stays under the surface of my conscious awareness. So because I am not conscious of the presence and strong influence of shame's control over me I too often fail to take action to face it more directly and learn how to deal with it effectively.

During our discussion we both agreed that fear and shame are the primary problems that we both have to deal with and that strongly influence how we relate to others and inhibit our relationship with each other. We also realized that we really desire a mentor in our lives who could show us how to face this problem effectively and learn to live in the freedom and peace that our hearts crave so much. But the problem seems to remain that there are extremely few people around who are mature enough and willing enough to mentor others in the ways of God, and whoever they are they don't seem to be anywhere near our lives right now.

As a result it appears to me like God is going to have to mentor us directly without using any humans to be His agents unless He has someone in mind that we are totally unaware of at this point. Many times in my life when I felt totally alone going through intense struggles and wishing for someone to join me and emotionally guide me through those times, I wondered if maybe God was allowing me to go it alone in order to be trained to help others whom I would encounter later who felt totally alone. I can distinctly remember situations where I nearly felt like screaming out, longing for someone to be with me in my problems and frustrations to overcome problems in my life. But the only answer that seemed to come was that when I learned this lesson I would be better situated to have compassion and sympathy for others in similar circumstances.

I don't know what God has in mind for the process of my healing and I am cautious to try to second-guess how He plans to accomplish that in me. But I do know that what I am learning about Him from the Bible in my own personal encounters with Him each day is full of encouragement and is awakening more hope and love in my own heart. I ultimately have to come back to throwing myself on the promises and words of God that I find written there and trust His heart to guide me through the confusing maze of inner mysteries and outer temptations to the freedom and joy and security that my heart was designed to thrive on in His presence.