We just got hit with a massive snowstorm here in Colorado! I awoke to 10 inches of snow on the ground and another 2 inches have fallen in the last 3 hours alone. It didn’t look like it was going to let up anytime soon, so I headed out to shovel our driveway and sidewalk. After 45 minutes of shoveling a foot of heavy snow, giant snow banks had formed on either side of my driveway. I had to lift my arms higher and higher to dump a new shovelful of snow.
After a while, I noticed a phenomenon happening. Each time I brought a shovelful of snow and dumped it on top of the ever-growing snowbanks, a little ball of snow would fall from the top of the mound. It would roll and roll, growing bigger and bigger, until it got all the way back to my driveway. Before I knew it, my driveway was full of these snowballs and I had to work even harder to shovel them out of the way. It was so exhausting and discouraging!
It got me thinking about how we often have snowballs in our Thin Within journey as well. Unchecked sin, guilt, or disobedient actions that grow and grow until we are so discouraged we can barely move. I affectionately call this the “Snowball Effect.”
Can you relate to the scenario below?
You begin the day with the best of intentions. You read your Thin Within material, pray, renew your mind in God’s Word in the morning and set out to eat from 0-5 all day. At lunch, you have a few bites too many. “Uh-oh….dang it! Why’d I do that?! I wasn’t even thinking or paying attention to my meal!” The next thing you know it’s 2pm and those chocolate truffles on the counter are calling your name. “Well, I’m not at a 0, but I guess a few truffles can’t hurt…” By the time dinner happens, a seed of frustration has begun blossoming in your thoughts and emotions. “Why did I eat those truffles? Now I’m not even hungry for dinner but my whole family is ready to eat. I’ve already blown it today, I guess I’ll just eat dinner even though I’m not hungry. Heck, maybe I’ll even have a second helping.” After dinner, the frustration, guilt, shame and condemnation ramp up even more. “I can’t believe I messed up today so badly! What is my problem? Why can’t I do this thing? I’ll never be able to lose weight. Today has been such a disaster. I guess I’ll finish off those truffles.“
Do you see how a few bites too many at lunch suddenly lead to eating an entire box of truffles + dinner + a second helpings outside of 0-5 boundaries? How the heck did that even happen?
Guilt and shame are powerful. If left in our hearts and minds too long, they fester. They distort our thinking and make us do things we never intended to do. I often think of King David in this cycle. A lustful glance at Bathsheba suddenly turned into a giant snowball of sin that lead to adultery and murder. I’m sure David, a man after God’s own heart, never would have guessed he was capable of such things.
We too allow unchecked guilt, shame and condemnation dictate our future actions. In the scenario above, a few extra bites of food at lunch produced a healthy response of “uh-oh!” However, allowing that “uh-oh!” to slowly morph into major guilt and shame which then dictated the rest of the day’s eating is not what we’re after. This type of pattern can snowball into an entire day, week or month of eating beyond what we know our bodies are truly calling for. It’s a discouraging cycle to be in. But it need not last for long! There is hope! There is a different response we can choose.
There are two very powerful ways to melt the snowball:
1) Confess & Repent
2) Observe & Correct
Confession and Repentance are powerful. After we are sinful or disobedient, we have the freedom to go straight to the throne of God and get it off our chest before our guilt pushes into further disobedience. In the scenario above, if we had immediately gone to God and confessed that we broke our boundaries at lunch, we could have immediately received His loving grace which would have prevented the cycle of guilt and condemnation to push us into further disobedience as the day went on. That snowball of guilt and shame wouldn’t have had the time to build any momentum. Hebrews 10:22 assures us that we are washed clean, ready to begin again with a refreshed perspective, “let us draw near to God with a sincere heart and with the full assurance that faith brings, having our hearts sprinkled to cleanse us from a guilty conscience and having our bodies washed with pure water.”
Proverbs 28:13 says “Whoever conceals their sins does not prosper, but the one who confesses and renounces them finds mercy.” There is no need to hang on to your sin or dwell on how you messed up! Bring it to God, allow His grace and forgiveness to wash over you, brush yourself off and keep pressing on! God never demands perfection from us. He knows we will all mess up even with the best of intentions. But confessing those moments and repenting of our sinful actions allow us to continue on in persistence without the shame or guilt nipping at our heels.
I personally LOVE how the Observation and Correction tool in Thin Within complements Confession and Repentance so well. After we have gone to God and received His loving grace, we have the opportunity to Observe and Correct. Simply take a look at your behavior, thoughts or emotions that contributed to your initial “mess-up” and observe what was going on. Refuse to beat yourself up over it. Refuse to rehash it over and over and over. Refuse to condemn yourself. Simply observe what happened objectively. Make note of what was going on in your circumstances or what emotions were at play.
After we Observe, it’s important to apply a Correction. Proverbs 24:2 says “I applied my heart to what I observed and learned a lesson from what I saw.” Exactly! It is vital to apply a lesson from what we observe. It is not enough to just observe. If we just observe and observe and observe, the only thing that will happen is a heightened awareness of our flaws which can potentially lead to further guilt or shame. Observing “I was greedy at lunch and wanted a second helping” or “I felt obligated to eat the piece of pie Aunt Kay offered” is great! Then it is crucial to follow it up with an appropriate Correction like “next time I can thank Aunt Kay and ask her if I can take the pie home with me”. Often I will ask myself this question: “If I was in the exact same scenario tomorrow, what can I do differently to alter the outcome?” It’s so important to give ourself this opportunity to think through how we might change our thoughts or actions so that we can be better prepared next time!
Let’s not forget that there is transformative power to be found in God’s grace. We have access to it anytime we need. Guilt and shame need not fester and snowball out of control! His mercy can melt a snowball of sin, guilt or condemnation in 2 seconds flat. A heart that Confesses, Repents, Observes and Corrects is a heart that is primed for victory!
How about you? Can you relate to a mounting cycle of shame/sin/guilt/condemnation? Do you have a growing snowball in your Thin Within journey that needs a little melting? Do you regularly confess, repent, observe and correct when you have broken a boundary? Don’t let these “common” practices grow dull in your walk with Christ or your Thin Within journey!