Monday, April 25, 2005

There is joy in the Lord!

Aubry-3, Josiah-8, playing at the park!

A post at Dogwood Blue about Christian Hedonism got me thinking about my own outlook on life as a follower of Christ. Hedonism is "pleasure based, pleasure oriented." It is a way of life that is marked by "joy, happiness and contentment."

Note: Because I am not a student of theology or doctrine, I am not so much commenting on Hedonism as I am about my own experience!

I come from a background of strong Bible teaching, an emphasis on serving and doing what is right. On the surface, these biblical concepts are good, but they can have a negative flipside. For me, these things became a form of legalism that was void of God's Spirit. I found myself making decisions, not based on God's direction, but on slogans I heard repeatedly, like: "Live a life of righteousness", "Serve the fellowship" and "Give your life away." I began to evaluate choices based on which decision seemed harder, because this would be God's way of challenging me. Accepting suffering became a daily habit because this was God's way of refining me. Again, a biblical concept, but one I took too far.

Because I always viewed God in the negative, my life became colored with the dark tones of insecurity, anxiety and depression. The consistent lack of peace I had was an indicator that something was wrong. This way of life, for me, became like a prison. Rather than living as a follower of Christ, I lived my life to be an example to the Christians surrounding me. At the end of this time period, I realized I had allowed serving and doing to be a substitute for a relationship with God, and in that process a huge gulf had opened up between God and myself.

Because, I believe, God wanted to do something completely new in my life, he brought me to the absolute end of myself and He began to rebuild my walk with Him, from the ground up. Almost nothing, except the foundation, remains as it was before. I have learned that God is good. Such a simple concept, yet a deep and life-changing one. My walk with God should bring freedom, peace and joy, even in hard circumstances, but my focus must be on God's goodness and His unconditional love for me, not on my own holiness (or lack of it). I can not look at acceptance or non-acceptance by those around me as a measurement of my faith, and works can no longer sit in the place where relationship with God needs to be.

Am I a Christian Hedonist? No, because I don't like the labels Christians place on themselves and on others. But I am a Christian seeking to find freedom and peace in Christ on a daily basis. I also desire to portray an attitude of grace and mercy to the people around me. Am I good at doing any of these things? Sometimes, yes. Sometimes, no. But I do know that the scope of God's grace and mercy towards me is sufficient to change me and to accept me as I am!

"Freedom that is brought through Christ's redemption is to go fuller, to go deeper, to go broader, to enjoy more-not to go narrower and narrower into an ever-shrinking, hyped-up, gloomy little world of Christian experience."
-Franky Shaeffer
Addicted to Mediocrity