26 noviembre 2013

Part 4: On self-control

Truly God is good to Israel,
to those who are pure in heart.
But as for me,
my feet had almost stumbled;
my steps had nearly slipped.
For... [empirical data did not seem to follow my God-including hypotheses] 
If I had said, "I will speak thus,"
I would have betrayed the generation of your children...

I set out to write this post roughtly a year and a half after the previous one. The basic gist has been in my journal since around then, but, well, self-control and i don't get along too well. He freaks me out, really. He always reminds me of food, and I'm like, "Do you mind?!"

And here i am, a bit older and less excitable, thinking about faith from a much different perspective than these previous posts, and, being the audacious hussy i am, i guess now's as good a time as ever to write. 

recap: 2 Pet. 1 gives us a list of qualities that, if we practice them, we "will never fall": Be diligent to add to your faith virtue, and to virtue knowledge... self-control, steadfastness, godliness, brotherly affection, love.

Part Two: On Virtue
Part Three: On Knowledge

If faith were a garden, virtue would be the fruit and knowledge the depth and richness of the soil. Self- control would be the yard work: throwing out stones, weeding, turning over soil, fencing in plots, pruning...

Defining terms:
Self-control: regulating desires/actions to their proper place and time
requires: 1) prioritizing and 2) postponing or denying non-priorities
"the ability to control oneself, in particular one's emotions and desires or the expression of them in one's behavior, esp. in difficult situations."

Self-control/ discipline should be seen as friends of peace.
Self control...
- Exorcises malignant, distracting disorder.
- Resets the default of apathy like cold water at 6 a.m.
- Like a mother with a big, black trash bag, reduces wasting of gifts
- A snobby doorman with the guest list, self-control dismisses entitlement and gives VIP status to gratitude.
- Police-like, orders chaos; helps create a place of stability for others to find safety in
- This German inspector of the virtues allows work to be more effective/ efficient
- Like a runner, ignores distractions in favor of the goal
- Does not negate/ replace the grace of Christ, nor was meant to- only to showcase it in "clean windows"
- Creates a strong foundation for growth/ expansion "You who are faithful in small things..."
- is good for others
- restrains emotions from attempting coups

Friend of...
- gratitude
- ministry
- peace
- relationships
- wisdom/ clear-thinking

Virtue helps with self-control. It's easiest to say "no" to one thing by saying "yes" to something better. Denying ourselves is necessary to picking up our cross and following Christ, but we don't deny ourselves as an end in itself. (Me thinks.)

I would also propose, it's easier to say "no" (or "yes") to bigger bad/ good things when we regularly say the same to the small things. (As a man thinks in his heart, so he is. Guard your heart, for out of it spring the issues of life. From the heart come adulteries, murders, covetousness...)  Learning to wash the dishes, even when you don't feel like it (virtue + self-control), makes it easier to shut up complaining, or gossip, or cattiness, or insults (self-control), even when you "feel" like saying them. You have already learned that your feeling/ impulse is not supreme. Jesus, actually, is Lord, even when it's "just" the dishes, "just" a flirty conversation, "just" that snarky comment about your coworker...

Knowledge helps. Know exactly what God thinks about stuff that needs controlling. (Learn this: that I desire mercy and not sacrifice. You tithe the mint and dill and cummin but neglect the weightier matters of the law: justice, mercy, and faithfulness. This you ought to have done without leaving the other undone.) Learn to distinguish what you must stop immediately, what you must never allow, what you must wait on, or what is fine and good and God-inspired: enjoy and bless God who gives all things richly for that exact purpose.

Enemy of:
- Anxiety
- Emotionalism
- Instability
- Peer/ demonic pressure
- Regret
- Waste

Why the bad rep, then, especially with me?!
Perception of...
- Rules and more rules
- Guilt when not lived-up to
- Judging: myself and others
- Inflexibility: inconsiderate of others' needs and feelings because they're not really "important" according to our self-control calculus
- Pressure: "Must... work... harder!"
- Perceived opposition to spontaneous joy, happiness, enjoyment
- Anti-food! Anti-pleasure!
- Not earthy/ human- mechanical/ systematic rather than organic

How can we counteract these visceral triggers? How does self-control supplement our faith? ...our trust in God?

Since "self-control" somehow fires up my "food" synapsis: In fasting, [Argh. I am so unqualified! This is why I didn't want to write about this!] we learn that God's goodness and kindness is accessible, even (surprise!) when we are hungry! ... then we eat again, (maybe the most important part of the process) and realize what a beautiful, sweet gift food is- how lovely, how delicious, how amazing that God would fill our mouths with good things.

We realize that what we are doing without (whether sin, or something good out of season, or something good for something better) is not the "necessary" thing. It's not the bread of life. It's not required for the continued existence of our souls. ...but the goodness, grace, love of God is necessary. And we have that. It's ours. It's given, paid for, secure by the merits of Christ. You never have to deny yourself the grace of God: His tender, loving, strong and strengthening Self.

Self-control can be dangerous. We are safest when our controlling of passions springs from and leads to trusting God. If we can't see what trusting God has to do with controlling our self, maybe it should still be done, but you had better tend to your presuppositions quick or risk taming the devil you know by a devil you don't. I believe we can find ourselves farther from God because of "obedience" to a perceived command than we would be if we had cried out to God from the beginning, "But WHY?!" and refused to budge until we understood. I say this cautiously and from experience, not necessarily Scripture. [Wow. As I'm typing this, roughly 1.5 years after writing it, i'm realizing that this  point is very, very tied to one's definition of "the will of God," which could be a series in itself. let me summarize... The will of God is our sanctification. The works of the flesh are evident. Defeating sin is hard enough without adding to the list. Let us learn not to go beyond what is written, and self-control might not be such a visceral issue.]  I still hope God will honor our confused obedience and reveal Himself in time, but maybe He won't. Or maybe we'll just go through a lot of unnecessary pain on the way to Him "working all things together for the good of those who love Him."

Tend to your view of God always. Faith seeking understanding. Theology, theology, theology is your friend. You must obey, but you must obey in worship of the right Deity. The God who is, not necessarily the god whom your psyche's holding before you. Seek the God who is and obey Him. Self-control only has merit to our sustained faith insofar as it causes us to lay hold of Christ as He is. A self-controlled person can become apostate; a Christ-dependent one cannot.

Yet, the lack of self-control is what the nephew claimed could lead to apostasy, and Peter claimed could help prevent it, so it's not optional. Without it, porridge can be persuasively bartered for our birthright. (Our flesh can be a Gehenna of a con artist.) Without it, we can miss our cues and ruin our whole scene. Without it, we can impatiently chose a detour of the Gran Canyon and miss the sweetness of a walking tour.

Self-control I'll divide into three groups:
1) From sin = unapologetic corruption of good
2) From good things out of turn = sin only because of timing
3) From good for better = freely received in love, freely given for love

1) From sin = unapologetic corruption of good
We always must refuse...
- Wrath
- Cynicism
- Bitterness
- Lust
- Distrust of God
- Worry
- Faithlessness
- Egoism
- Greed
- Slander
- Gossip
- Rebellion
- Using others
- Strife
No coddling, no chuckling, no excusing, no blind eyes. These are sin.

2) From good things out of turn = sin only because of wrong timing
We must sometimes forego (control our impulse toward)...
- Sarcasm (Wit when it hurts)
- Romance
- Sex
- Laughter/ levity
- Control
- "Food sacrificed to idols"
- Work
- Rest
- Self- determination
- Anger
- Will
- Possessions
- Debate
- Safety
 - Honor
Not now, not blessed, not acceptable, don't pout, ask why, and see how God is justified. (Spoiler: It's generally about loving others.)

 3) From good for better = freely received in love, freely given for love
Sin is not a part of this discussion. These we trade/ pause/ postpone for something better: worship, if the trade's in love 

- Money
- Possessions
- Free time
- Solitude
- Safety/ security
- Sleep/ rest (for relationships, prayer, kindness, responsibilities...)
- Food for prayer... and a greater perception of, appreciation for God. (I remember a very helpful quote saying something to the effect of, "We fast to pray. A fast without prayer is a fast of demons. Demons do not eat, but neither do they pray.")
- Marriage for service
- Service for marriage
- Friends for the friendless
- Freedom for relationship

(I've frequently confused group 3 with group 2, and it's NOT been helpful.)

In conclusion, how do these help us trust God, to never fall from faith? 

We agree with You that evil is evil, even if we want to do it, feel like doing it = we learn how good, how non-capricious, how constant You are. If it's wrong for us to do it to others, likewise You will fix it if others do wrong to us or our beloveds. (You don't play.) 

We learn to look for and understand why You say, "No. Not now. Not a good idea." You're not arbitrary. Your wisdom is reasonable. 

We think on Your goodness and by choosing better over good, we give You joy. Worship... by the Holy Spirit. Instead of ourselves, we receive You.