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.”

(Re-post from Ramblings) The Little Engine that Could Not.

You’ve heard about the little engine that could. He was new, shiny and blue. He had a black little smokestack and all the willpower in the world to get up that dang hill.
His chugging resunded from the neighboring hill, echoing off in the distance.

I think I can, I thinkIcanithinkicaniknowicaniknowican. And he made it over the hill. All the engines and people cheered for his little triumphant butt.

Enough about him.

There was another little engine. One who tried and tried and tried but just couldn’t. He wouldn’t. He refused.
See, this little engine was a beautiful candy apple red one, top of the line. He had shiny chrome wheels and the station master ADORED him.
One day, an engine from another station came by and talked to the little Engine. She was long, shiny and black. She started telling the little engine tantalizing tales about all the things the Station master had forbidden the little red engine to do.
The little red engine became entranced with these things and the rebelliousness of it all enticed him. Before he knew it, he’d become addicted to them. He did these acts in secret, but the station master knew EVERYTHING that his trains did.
Soon, he realized that his problem had gotten out of control and he wanted to stop. He wanted to quit. He refused to live this life, bogged down by his problems, his addictions. He was the little engine that couldn’t do this anymore.
“IjustcantIjustcantIjustcant IknowIcan’tIknowIcan’t.”

Unfortunately for him, and us, beating addiction is easier said than done.

Like in my case, anyone I know can attest to the fact that I used to be SUPER  addicted to coffee and I’ve now moved on to another problem. We’ll say it’s chocolate problem (chocolate is kinda becoming a problem anyway.). Both of these things aren’t inherently SIN, but gluttony is a sin, and eating THIS much chocolate is gluttony. So, there ya go. I’m sinning. It’s a sin that people know of, but don’t consider a “big sin”, even though it is one of the deadlies.

Anyway. So, this is my sin. I eat candy bars every day, at least 2. In addition to the guilt I feel for over indulging, I am also gaining weight, wrecking my teeth, screwing my poor digestive system over, hurting my focus and wasting my money. Actions have consequences and mine have some big ones! I’m aware of them, but I keep doing it. I’m currently disgusted with myself. I spent the first 4 months of this year dropping 35 pounds and I’ve probably gained back 8 of them. Urf!

I’ve tried the whole “Flee temptation” thing. Being the kinesthetic learner that I am, I tried to actually run away from candy bars and looked like a total idiot. It’s kind of hard to literally FLEE something that’s RIGHT THERE.

I tried “In the name of Jesus, candy temptation be gone! I rebuke you in the name of Jesus Christ!” Hah. I’m not saying that Jesus can’t overpower that temptation, but sugar cravings are deeper than a lot of others. I know they psychologically/physiologically affect the body in many ways and are often tied in with other behaviors, memories, emotions, etc. It’s hard to beat! If I look at candy too long, I’ll buy it. and it never tastes as good as I think it will.
Other sins like stealing, porn or drunkenness release mood altering hormones that the body gets addicted to, which makes them hard to crack. It isn’t always the behaviors someone is addicted to, but the body’s response to them. Therein lies the rub. If sin merely affected the soul, it might be easier to break. Since the body is involved too, everything becomes more complex.

So, I decided to try something. One day, I resolved that I would just not buy chocolate for a week. Just, nope, none, I’d quit cold turkey, yes I would. Thoughts of Reese’s swirled in my head all day long. By lunchtime I wanted that “forbidden fruit” so bad I physically salivating.

3 hours in, guess what I was eating?

Determined to shake this, I said “THAT IS IT. NO MORE CHOCOLATE FOR A MONTH.”
I’m female. I lasted 3 days. Maybe four.

This battle raged on for a while. Earlier this week I decided to try something.
“You know what? I will not eat any candy or chocolate today. I will not think about yesterday or tomorrow. I just won’t eat it today.” Today is doable. “God, I give this to you today.”

There’s an old song that goes “Strength everlasting and grace for today.” Lamentations 3 says that God’s mercy is renewed each morning. These things are resonating with me. His mercy is new each morning and every day I’m getting the strength to fight the cravings and not give in to temptation.

Those “todays” are slowly but surely adding up. I’ve lost track of the last time I caved. Was it last week? Two days ago? I don’t care any longer. What keeps me focused is not thinking about yesterday’s failures, and not focusing on the future. Every morning I give this sin up to my wonderful heavenly father. He takes it from me and in return for this vile goop, gives me grace and strength to carry through and press into him.

No matter what your “chocolate” is. If you’re the little engine who can’t take this crap anymore, guess what? You don’t have to! It doesn’t matter if your chocolate is actually chocolate, if it’s drugs, drinking, smoking, porn, swearing, whatever your poison is,the fact is you don’t HAVE to be addicted any longer. If you need it, get help, counseling. As you quit, give your cravings and temptations over to God. Say it, out loud.

“God, with your help, I will NOT be doing (insert behavior here) today. Please give me the strength and grace to make it through today.”.
Take baby steps in the process of building newer better habits and don’t freak out when you fall. Just pick yourself up, don’t look back. Don’t look forward either. Just look at him.

…and thus the little engine who refused to take it anymore, confessed his problems to the station master. The station master helped the little guy get back on the right track. Now the little engine that couldn’t and refused to be stuck in his addiction is free.

All aboard!
-Becky