Shades of gray.

Yes, those wonderful morally gray areas we fall into in this day and age. The Bible didn’t mention it so, what is it?
Sin?
Not sin?

Well, let’s break sin down, what exactly is it?

Sin is anything that falls short of God’s perfection.   Dictionary definition says “an immoral act considered to be a transgression against divine law.” God’s law pertains to our thought life too. To human is to sin. Some people are too uppity about sin “Oh I said ‘Gosh, I’m such a terrible sinner!” and other people are waaaaay too lax about it.”Yeah, I stole from my boss, but it’s not a big deal, it was only 100 bucks.”
Sin is a problem and like every other problem, it needs addressed. It is serious, but it’s not something that should be used to divide, cause human judgmental actions or anything of the sort.  We live in sin, we all should try to get out of it and we don’t have to be ruled by it, thanks to Jesus.

Now we know what sin is.  But what about those gray places that the Bible doesn’t explicitly talk about?  Like eating too much often but not living a specifically gluttonous lifestyle? Drinking too much every so often while not being an alcoholic? Or self-pleasure? These are all “kind of” morally gray or even taboo topics and with a God that’s very explicit… well… let’s find out WHY we’re engaging in these behaviors and see if the sin lies there.
The root cause of morally gray behavior, or pretty much any other behavior starts in the heart. Something inside the heart got a little off-kilter and temptation kicks in, followed by caving, thus leading to sin. Sometimes the sin is a “once and done” deal, but with some of these, the body’s hormones get involved and that makes things harder to shake.

The one I’m probably most familiar with is food. There are others, but this one resonates the strongest. The drive to eat is even stronger than the drive to procreate. Eating is not only enjoyable, it’s part of survival.  God made us to enjoy eating so we could survive and to enjoy sensuality so we can keep the world populated. In a perfect world, these things would be non-issue. Since everything is fallen, these are issues for many people, Christians included.

So, food. Food is good, a lot of food is better… or so the body assumes. Eating or any other pleasurable activity causes the body to be filled with feelings of comfort, happiness, warmth, nothing but positives. Over eating is bad however, the “Hey, you’re full!” brain signal gets translated into pain and discomfort. If you don’t eat too much, it’s a great experience.  However, with continuous over eating, the stomach can be stretched to hold more food than ever before. This can encourage the behavior and eventually make us fat.

 

Likewise, the things we say or do can sear our consciences, weakening us for the next time we engage in or are tempted by morally gray areas.

I have heard time and time again to resist the devil, flee from temptation and “Go! Sin no more!” Jesus tells us to avoid sin, but if your heart’s not in the right place, you’re going to sin.

Let me repeat that.

If your heart is in the wrong place, you WILL sin. There is no doubt to be had. It will happen.

The first sin happened when temptation kicked in, when the heart’s desires turned from God to self.

Despite your best efforts, goals, whatever. If your heart is in the wrong place you will contemplate that forbidden fruit, you will do what you can to avoid it, think about it more and eventually cave. The more you think about it, the more likely you are to DO it, even if your goal when thinking about it is to not do it.

You ever been on a diet, see a pack of Chips Ahoy and start thinking about cookies? Like a lot? Like a lot a lot? You try to resist but suddenly you’re REALLY hungryandyoujustgottahavethosecookies? And then you BUY the cookies?  And then EAT those cookies? Feels good for about 0.2 seconds and then you come crashing down? Yeah, that feeling. That failure guilty-ish thing you get when you have something you’ve forbidden yourself from. That is your brain and body giving you the double whammy of the rise of pleasure and the fall of defeat that morally gray areas can have on your soul.

With a very strongly black and white God, hanging out in the gray isn’t a safe place to be.

Revelation  3:  “ 15I know your deeds, that you are neither cold nor hot. I wish you were either one or the other! 16So, because you are lukewarm—neither hot nor cold—I am about to spit you out of my mouth….Those whom I love I rebuke and discipline. So be earnest and repent. 20Here I am! I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in and eat with that person, and they with me.”

This is something that was never presented to me in any Sunday school lesson, any Church sermon. This was something I figured out, through trial, error and a very rocky relationship with my creator.   I realized I had to get out of the gray. I wasn’t sure how. It was if I was a zombie, dead and numb. After prayer and soul-searching, God showed me that the morally gray area was killing my soul. I’d ignored the warning signs my conscience threw at me. I was being controlled by addiction.

As a Christian who wanted to be on fire for God again and as someone who likes to be in control, not to be controlled, I said enough was enough. Getting my heart back on track was past due.

In order to escape the gray and make your way back, you first have to want to. Some people are totally down with being lukewarm in their faith, having an unstable relationship with God and continuing to satisfy their fleshly desires. They’re okay with the guilt or maybe don’t even feel the guilt at all. They like their comfort zone, this little cozy place of habit.

This is where I tried resisting, day tracking “It’s been X about of days since I last Z’d. Yay” distraction, working out until I was too tired to think.

And here’s how they all failed. Homegirl has no will power when it comes to chocolate. Nope. If I have the money, I’m probably going to buy it. Well, that or popcorn.

Day tracking only made me think about the very thing I wanted to avoid, thus stirring up unneeded desire and backfiring.

Distraction. There’s a thing called “youtube” and if you’re trying to eat healthy, looking up “How make melt-in-your-mouth cookies” WILL NOT HELP YOU. And one can only stare at so many dank memes and cat .gifs.

Being tired also makes resisting temptation harder.

What actually worked for me was substitution.  When I felt the urge to go gray, I prayed instead. ”don’t go gray-er, go in prayer.” (New t-shirt slogan?)

If it was accessible, I read my Bible until the urge was gone. I put on worship music in the house.
The first few days were a little awkward. I still felt like I was battling the gray, waffling on whether or not it was bad, still deciding in my mind what to do when it was really my heart that needed adjusting.
Slowly though, things began to shift.  My desire for the gray began to fade. It was a painfully sluggish pace, but it was fading. The first few weeks were rocky.  I’d be lying if I said I never had the urge after that or that it was a clean and swift process to freedom.
Because it wasn’t. At all. I was never more tempted to give in than those first few weeks of shifting. Hard changes are never comfortable.

However, I hadn’t felt so alive and so free since I fell into the gray area.

A couple more weeks passed and I realized I’d been trying to satisfy and fill an old wound with food.  When you give up an old habit, you suddenly learn a lot about yourself. Through prayer and re-connection with God, I figured out where I’d gone astray and where the initial disconnect was.
Now, I can safely say I’m out of the gray. Do I still get tempted? Of course. Do I still backslide into the gray? Occasionally, but my heart’s changed. I’ve lost my taste for it. I’ve changed.

If you’re stuck in a gray area and can’t figure out why, or what you’re supposed to actually be doing, I encourage you to pray and soul search. Once you figure out the root causes of this habitual sin, this gray place, you can repent, get cozy with your Creator to break some habits and get renewed.

You’ll be out of the gray.

“When the heart is in the right place, the feet are swift to do the right thing.”

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