Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Sin and "Watershed Moments"

David Powlison is the lecturing professor of the counseling class I've been taking (via distance education), and one of the terms he uses that has been helpful for me in thinking about sin is identifying when "watershed moments" occur in our lives.  He uses the term to refer to times when our reactions, words, or attitudes (even in something small) act as markers that give indication of is really going on at a deeper level in our hearts.  Often, the same exact situation can produce entirely different reactions in two people... and these moments can give insight as to why we react the way we do.

Yesterday's "Watershed Moment"
Just this week, I went to my Weight Watchers meeting, weighed in (I'd gained .6 pounds, but was totally OK with that, because last week was our "birthiversary"-- my birthday and our anniversary over 2 days-- and I'd enjoyed cheesecake and not exercised much, so I was completely OK with the slight gain), and was pumped about starting a new week.  I'm really enjoying Weight Watchers (my mom and I are doing it together), and love the accountability and encouragement to stay motivated that happens at the meetings.

So this week, everything was coasting along nicely, and this lady who'd met her goal of losing 74 pounds got up to share her story.  At first she spoke about her inspiring journey, and it was very encouraging, but then she looked pointedly at me and said, "it's so good that those of you who only have 10 pounds to lose can get things under control before it becomes 70 pounds."

Now I realize that may not seem bad.

But to me, it was quite discouraging, as I came into Weight Watchers nearly 40 pounds over the MAXIMUM weight they say someone my height should be.  Not 10.  I have lost 13 pounds in the last 8 weeks, which is all fine and good, but I still have about 25 pounds to go.  I'm not, by any means, some skinny-winny.  To me, it felt like she had pointed at me and said, "aw, look at this naive little girl who doesn't understand the struggles of those of us who have REAL weight to lose."  My cheeks reddened, and I tried to subtly look around me to see if there was anyone else she could be talking to, but no.   She meant me, and kept staring at me for what seemed like minutes.

My Response (The "Fruit")
I left the meeting mildly perturbed.  As I went to shop for new tennis shoes, her words kept replaying in my mind and I felt more and more furious.  I was seething that someone would (in my mind) ridicule me and downplay the seriousness of my hard work and efforts to get back to a healthy weight.  "I still have 25 pounds to go!  What is she talking about, 10 pounds???", I thought.   I called my mom and she encouraged me that that had happened to her, too, the last time she did Weight Watchers... she & I carry weight differently than other people do-- we carry extra weight spread all over our body, rather than (for example) all in the hips-- so it looks different on us.  When I hung up with her, I felt mostly validated, yet still frustrated.

Getting To the Root
Before taking this class, I would have felt justified, and let the moment go as that lady's problem or lack of understanding.  But now, I'm more apt to dig deeper when I see an attitude like that in my life, and ask, "What is it that's really going on?"

And what's really going on, I think, is that I don't like to feel publicly humiliated.  I still vividly remember the girl on the school bus in junior high who loudly told me my chest was, "so flat it's like a bowl; it caves in", even though now, I am quite well endowed and completely content with my lot in that area.  My heart still pounds wildly when I remember the girl who threatened to beat me up after school and chased me home in her car.

I don't like feeling called out, particularly in front of other people.

So then, what do I do with that?  What do I do with feelings of shame & humiliation based on how I'm treated by other people?

What does God say?
Well, I have to go to Scripture and see what it says about embarrassment, humiliation... not much... but fear of man and shame?  Plenty.

"The fear of man lays a snare, but whoever trusts in the LORD is safe." ~Proverbs 29:25 
"Oh, guard my soul, and deliver me!  Let me not be put to shame, for I take refuge in You." ~Psalm 25:20
"But the Lord GOD helps me; therefore I have not been disgraced; therefore I have set my face like a flint, and I know that I shall not be put to shame." ~Isaiah 50:7

From this, I can counsel my own heart-- God helps me.  What people say is irrelevant because my confidence is in the LORD, not in myself.

Even more convicting,
"hope does not put us to shame, because God's love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us." ~Romans 5:5
 So, yes, I should hope in God, and then I can lay hold of God's love in my heart and have a response of love (1 Corinthians 13-style: bearing all things, enduring, being patient, not holding a record of wrongs) toward the woman who I wanted to slug, because I have the Holy Spirit.

And, for an eternal perspective, John wrote to the children of God,
"And now, little children, abide in Him, so that when He appears we may have confidence and not shrink from Him in shame at His coming."  ~1 John 2:28  

By abiding in Him, choosing love at times when I would rather abide in my frustration, and by relying on the Holy Spirit within me, I can avoid a more lasting and more significant "shame".  Momentary embarrassment in a meeting (which might have not really been noticed by anyone but me) is NOTHING compared to the shame I would feel in the presence of Jesus, at the memory of a continual mental haranguing of another human being when I ought to have relied on the Spirit and opted for love.

The next time I feel publicly humiliated and face a similar "watershed" moment, I hope I will recall these truths and put my reddened cheeks in a more whole, eternal perspective.

A Framework for Understanding Life
Putting the situation, and my behavior & reactions, in the light of the reality of Christ changes the whole notion of what is shameful.  I'm so thankful for a new way of looking at these "watershed" moments in my life and hope that by continuing to examine myself in this way, I will gain insight into the ways that I am not abiding in Christ, and be able to more heartily and fully live in Him.

Waterfall images: FreeDigitalPhotos.net Tom Curtis / FreeDigitalPhotos.net


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