Saturday, December 4, 2010

Global Guilt

Does anyone else suffer from Global Guilt?

I realized I did through a couple of circumstances. I was reading a book that a friend gave me, (Gift from the Sea by Anne Morrow Lindbergh) when I came across a passage that talked about how we deal with living in the age where we have so much information about our world. (And she lived in a world before the internet!!) She says,

"But just how far can we implement this planetal awareness? We are asked today to feel compassionately for everyone in the world; to digest intellectually all the information spread out in pulic print; and to implement in action every ethical impulse aroused by our hearts and minds. The interrelateness of the world links us constantly with more people than our hearts can hold. Or rather — for I beleive the heart is infinite — modern communication loads us with more problems than the human frame can carry.

I realized, in reading that passage that I am overwhelmed by how to do good in a world that is so very big and hurting.

Add that to the guilt that we as Christians, are supposed to be saving the world.

For 20 years I belonged to a church that, in my opinion, with great grandiosity defined their role in the earth as having great impact. We, by just belonging and participating, were responsible for keeping our city safer from the demonic, bringing God's kingdom into whatever place our foot fell, bringing righteousness to whatever country we sent our monies or our leaders to and so on and so on. Belonging to that church assuaged my global guilt because I could say, "Look at all the good we are doing."

Stepping out of that culture for 3 years I have struggled again with how to do good. What is my role as I receive information about the children sold into slavery in Cambodia, the starving mommas in Africa, the children on the streets in Romania or the babies with AIDS that need a family? (And that was all in one weeks worth of reading!) Some information even comes with it's own pile of guilt to help you along. "How can you live in your homes with warm heat when you know children are dying of malaria because they have no nets?" "How can you prepare for your retirement when the people of Haiti are desolate?" Not to mention the training up disciples and spreading the gospel!!

I was asking Marshall about this the other day as we were driving to meet up with some dear friends in Pittsburgh. We were going to visit them but to also visit their little church. Marsh and I talked about what Jesus had said about the poor. It was fascinating to talk over different passages where the poor are discussed. We talked about not only that, but how very different our worlds are from the world Jesus spoke to. There, the poor were people that actually crossed your path. You knew the mom down the street that needed help or the poor by the gate that were there every day as your passed. We talked about how that was so different without the global knowledge that we have now.

Anyway, that was the topic of conversation in the car. I was so tired of carrying around this burden of Guilt that weighed me down with every click of the internet or every purchase I made, whether it was simply milk for the household or a new computer for the business or, heavens take note - a New TV for the boys!!

Now onto the church meeting. (As an aside - I had told God that I DID NOT want him to speak to us about anything in this meeting. I told him that I did not want anyone to prophesy over us or anything like that. I want him to speak to me in my own home and not have to depend on Him to be at any sort of Gathering that I HAVE to attend to hear him. - Just my issues :)

We walk into this old, stately church building. Half of it has been made into the kitchen and eating area as they get together each week on a Saturday night for a rotating schedule of worship, prayer, teaching from any of the members and just being together and then a big meal that each of them donate for everyone on their week. It truly seemed a lovely way to "meet." The other half is the old sanctuary that has been stripped of everything but a few chairs and an overhead projector. As we entered they were singing. I was tense as it is still a trigger point for me to walk into a charismatic service. I went right away to sit in a chair with my friends and bunker down to see what would happen. It was then that I looked up to the banner on the wall across from my chair and began to weep.

Now we all are used to banners on church walls. "Jesus is Lord" "Enter His Gates with Thanksgiving" "Light of the World" and "The Harvest is White" kind of Banners graced many of our old churches.

Not here! Across from me was the answer to my question of the year. It was a verse from Nehemiah 8:10. And in banner form that reached from the top of a 20 foot ceiling to the floor I stared at this verse.

(Neh 8:10 KJV) Then he said unto them, Go your way,
eat the fat, and drink the sweet,
and send portions unto them for whom nothing is prepared:
for this day is holy unto our Lord:
neither be ye sorry; for the joy of the LORD is your strength.

I looked up the passage to see what was going on in the text that Nehemiah would say such a thing. The Israelites had just found the books of the Law and the leaders had read them to the gathered people. They were in deep sorrow and grieving because they had never heard the words and so were in deep Guilt of where they had not done what was required. To this guilt Nehemiah was speaking.

His words boomed at me from centuries from off that church wall. Go my way. Do what I do. My way is not evil. Eat the fat and drink the sweet. Partake of the good of life - in fact the fat and sweet are the best portions of the feast. Send portions unto them for whom nothing is prepared. I am to share, but the important word to me was "portions." Not the whole thing. Not 9/10ths But a portion. A "portion" is not measurable by anyone as to if I am doing enough. I love the word portion. It is up to me and what I feel God is saying. This was truly liberating. Don't be sorry or in another translation, do not grieve. The Joy of the Lord is your strength. This life is to be lived in joy not in guilt. And this was from the OLD TESTAMENT!! How much more as we live in the new!

I know I asked God not to speak to me there that day. I guess he didn't though. Nehemiah did. But it was just what I needed to hear.


Erin said...

This goes right along with something I said in my post...about how I feel guilty for being bitter or angry about something in my life when there are children starving. Who am I to complain?

My real-life solution has been to focus on the hungry, abused, impoverished kids right here in my neighborhood. I don't do too much, but I do something. I guess that's a portion.

But some days, especially when I'm feeling sorry for myself, I suffer from that guilt you speak of.

Travis M said...

Barb, I absolutely love this post. I concur on the global guilt thing. For me, the message has been that "I am being selfish, and not spending enough energy/time/resources for other people." People on every relational level - how can I be so focused on myself by doing this or that, and not spend enough time with my wife and kids (obviously, not applicable to me right now)? or enough time with my close friends? or enough time with my neighbors? co-workers? the needy in my town? in the nearby community? in the other half of the country? across the globe??????? with so many people to spend time on, how can I so much as eat a bowl of cereal without feeling guilty of what I am doing?

I've tried to dump alot of the guilt, but honestly haven't been completely successful, because I feel like all the verses that seem to call for selflessness in the New Testament (e.g. "take up your cross daily", "deny yourself", "preach the gospel to the nations", etc.) that keep the guilt tethered and floating around. I don't fully understand it, but I know that my current absorption of all these "needs" is too much. I'll have to look into the Nehemiah passage...

Recovering Alumni said...

Ah yes, global guilt - I know it too well. Thanks for pointing out that verse. I'm finally starting to learn that its actually OK to enjoy life...who'd of thunk it?

Vincenzo said...

Barb, don't beat yourself up over enjoying life, besides there are plenty of other people that will gladly do it for you. You know the kind I'm talking about: they fast 5 days a week, repent 8 times a day and lay a guilt trip on anyone that seems remotely happy. I'm kidding (sort of). Let the Holy Spirit tell you what He would have you do, then move forward with thanksgiving. If you help others because God prompted you, or you just want to share the love, that's one thing. To do it out of guilt or condemnation is fear and not love. :)

Bethany said...

These are just the words I needed to hear as I find myself reacting against my church's reaction against Christmas commercialization. The message is a good one (give relationally, give beyond your family, give non-obligatorily) but sometimes it sounds to my guilty heart like "Don't give." (At least, "Don't give to your family when others need is greater.")
I'm taking these verses to heart this season and breathing in the freedom. Thanks.

Scott Stilson said...

Travis, someday you're gonna move back to State College and we'll work all these things out on endless walks around the golf course. ;)

Recovering Alumni, I went to the Honor Academy and am very good friends with Former Leader. Small world!