J happens to be a counselor. I actually have several friends who are therapists, and initially I found those relationships a bit hard to navigate. I was constantly wondering if my friends were trying to pyscho-analyze me, or when they asked me how I was doing, I wondered if they really wanted to know or if perhaps I should be paying them to listen to me. :) I'm so glad I got over that hump and realized they wanted to be my friends because they just liked ME!
I consider all of my counselor friends to be very, very wise. So when they speak, I pay attention.
I was sharing with J the other morning about a personal struggle I'm working through. It's not really beneficial to talk about in detail, but the gist is that I'm feeling a lot of pressure to do something I don't really want to do. (Vague enough for ya???)
As I listened to J's response, it really was one of those "aha" moments for me. She's worked really hard over the years to not operate/respond out of guilt. Knowing what it feels like when you're operating out of that guilty "place" is key. When you start feeling that guilt, that's when it is time to put on the brakes and really ask yourself how you're responding and why...and from there, give yourself permission to say no or change your course.
BUT, sometimes there are just some really hard things we need to do. Sometimes we need to push through the hard stuff, and be obedient to what God might be asking of us--not because we feel guilt, but because it's the right thing to do.
I know this struggle SO well. It sounds simple, I know, but I don't know that I've ever fully grasped the difference between guilt/non-guilt in regard to hard situations. There is no LIFE for me when I'm functioning out of guilt, but there is often a blessing when we do the right things for the right reasons.
Yesterday, I had a chance to experience this "aha" realization in a completely different situation.
A friend of mine had a baby last week. Her fifth child. She ended up having a c-section (not exactly what she'd planned) and she's needed some extra help this week. Another friend called and asked if I'd be willing to go over and help her out for a few hours. My morning plans fell through (sorry, Jamie) and so I found myself with some extra time to lend.
As that time approached, I found myself growing resentful. Not a fun thing to admit, but true nonetheless. I've had a busy week and haven't been home as much as I had hoped. I had laundry and cleaning to do, and I really started to get frustrated at the thought of leaving MY to-do list undone while checking thing off of my friend's list. Ugh...so selfish.
Remembering the conversation with J on Tuesday, I asked myself if I was doing this out of guilt. I wasn't. Believe me when I tell you that I KNOW that place within myself really, really well. This wasn't guilt. This was just a hard thing that I knew God was asking me to do. I was being asked to serve my friend, and I knew God wanted me to do it in love.
I wish I could tell you that my attitude immediately improved, but that wouldn't be true. I did manage to squeak out a prayer in her driveway and I knocked on the door determined to be cheery and positive.
I had told her the night before that I'd do anything she needed me to--errands, cook, laundry, play/read with her kids or help them with school (she homeschools). When I arrived, she handed me a list and gave me some instructions before heading upstairs to take a nap. She kissed each of her kids and said to them, "please be a blessing to Mrs. B". I probably would have said something like "please be sweet or please, please, please behave". I found her choice of words so interesting.
I fed her kids lunch, then loaded them into her van for a trip to Walmart to buy a birthday gift for her son to take to a party this week. Did I mention she has five children? Of course, the baby was at home with her, but that means that I had four children. In Walmart. In the toy section. You know what? Her kids were perfect. They didn't ask for one thing for themselves, didn't balk when I told them we all had to stay together on the Barbie aisle and we could look at Legos next, didn't whine or cry when I herded us all over to get milk and bread and checkout. Who are these kids and where can I get some more like them? (Just kidding, of course!)
They were a blessing to me! They were a blessing even after we got home and talked over a snack. They were a blessing while doing some schoolwork, and they were a blessing while reading books and tucking the littlest one in for her nap. Honestly, the time spent with them was one of the bright spots in my day. My friend thanked me for my help, but honestly, the pleasure was all mine!
Sure, my list was still waiting for me when I got home, and sure, some things even got bumped to today, but there was reward for me in pushing through and doing something hard because it was the right thing to do.
I can't say that I've ever had that kind of reward when I've done something out of guilt. For me, it doesn't seem to really work that way. I usually just end up more angry and more resentful, and blessing is NOWHERE in sight. What a difference it makes when we know why we're doing something and we're doing it for the right reasons..and when we push through