Monday, 15 April 2013

Freedom from Guilt

While we were at the South East Asia Anabaptist Retreat in Thailand, we led one of the three morning sessions. The topic for the retreat was "Spiritually thriving in cross-cultural life and work." Darnell led an Indigenous-style prayer focusing on our parts of the body and our journeys. And then I shared.  I was nervous to share and felt like I was taking a risk.... telling a group of 5o experience missionaries that I don't carry guilt for not reading my bible everyday made me feel pretty vulnerable. But I was incredibly encouraged by the positive reactions to what I had to say. At least a dozen people told me that it was an incredibly freeing time for them and  the discussion it fostered was awesome. After the small group time, we gathered in a big circle and had people just call out some of the non-conventional spiritual practices that renewed them, things they might not have otherwise considered a spiritual discipline. As things like mowing the lawn, playing with my son, going for a run and bird watching were called out, I thanked God for the opportunity to encourage others in how they connect with God. 

Here's what I shared.... 

"When I first read the email asking us to share, I right away thought this was something for Darnell to do. But when we talked about it, Darnell immediately said that I should share and that I have something very valuable to say.  So, as you can see, I’m going for it and am praying that what I have to say really is valuable!

So to start, let me tell you a few reasons why I, at first, didn’t feel equipped to share about spiritual practices… I don’t read my bible everyday- maybe once a week. I don’t do personal devotions. I don’t memorize scripture. I’m not some kind of prayer-warrior. I don’t reflect much about what is going on in my soul.  And I don’t “hear” God speak to me. 

Perhaps not quite the motivation we were seeking. But… I do feel close to God. I feel spiritually nurtured and growing in the community that I’m a part of. And I don’t have guilt about what I don’t do.

Over the years I’ve often felt the pressure of needing to “pray more” and “read my bible more.” When we were first dating and married, Darnell kind of thought I should “do” more. Perhaps he thought I wasn’t as “spiritual” as I should be. But, as you can tell, his view of spirituality, and mine also, has changed.

My pastor in Abbotsford recently released a book called Sacred Pauses: Spiritual Practices for Personal Renewal (check out her website here). In it she explores some of the different spiritual practices, including classic ones like Scripture reading and prayers but also some less conventional ones like going for a walk, having fun and living simply.

So for me, some of the less conventional spiritual practices, mainly the ones done in community, are the ones that offer me the renewal I need. Let me share…..

I like going for walks with my boys. I strap the kids in the stroller and try to go as far as I can before being a complete sweaty mess in the Manila heat. Sometimes I pray when I walk. Usually, because of two busy and chatty boys, my prayers are short- “Thank you for the sun today, Lord.” Or “Help Amanda to have a good sleep tonight and for Micah to feel better.” As I walk, I often spend time choosing to be thankful for the things I otherwise complain about- like the heat! I walk, enjoy the exercise, speak to God and choose to be thankful for the gifts of today. It is refreshing, keeps me focused and thankful, and also forces me to slow down and enjoy.

As Peace Church, we gather to read Scripture every week. Reading the Bible as a community weekly is my primary way of reading Scripture. It wasn’t until after the reformation that the Bible became accessible for the average person. So for the early church and the thousand years following it, reading a Bible was a community event. So why do so many of us feel guilt when we don’t do private “devotions” in a quiet, secluded space daily? Reading scripture is incredibly important, as it shapes how we think and act, but reading it privately is not a necessity.

I have fun. When I am intentional about enjoying the moment God has given me, it is a spiritual discipline. I love playing with my kids- it brings incomparable joy.  And when I hear their laughter, I am overwhelmed with thankfulness. I thank God for them- over and over. 

I like to cook and bake. This is my main act of service to my family and my community at this stage in my life. I’m in the kitchen, with my kids playing at my feet, a lot. I love when people enjoy my food and I love feeding friends a nutritious, healthy meal or a tasty dessert that they’ll remember. It shows that I care about their whole being and we discuss that God’s desire for Shalom is holistic, extending to every area of our life. I thank God for the food and for the opportunity to serve. And if I feel resentful for all the work I do, I talk to my family, pray, and make sure that I am giving with a joyful heart and that I’m also not overworked.

We spend a ton of time in deep discussion with our community. This is great, as I would much rather talk something out with a friend or with Darnell that I would reflect alone. So when things are pressing me or I have questions, I talk… sometimes Darnell feels like I talk too much! I also write long emails to my close friend at home. I enjoy sharing my struggles, my joys and my questions with people close to me. I’m always more aware of what I need to pray about or what I need to work on after I hash out my thoughts with a friend. Sharing with someone renews me.

So for me, the spiritual disciplines that renew me are done in community. That’s how I work. And I love that I no longer carry guilt about my lack of “quiet time with God.” David Augsberger, in his Book Dissident Discipleship writes, “The natural habitat of any true disciple of Jesus is community. Those who seek to know Christ know that he is most truly known in community” (65).

There are times, however, when I feel like I need to be alone and I grab my Bible and sit on the patio without the noise and distraction of my kids. Those are the times when I ask God for patience, for renewed hope, and just take a breather. But these times don’t come often and I’m perfectly okay with that.  I grow with the people around me, my family and my community, and I don’t feel like I need to be alone with God in order to know him more.

I’m thankful that the years of guilt for not “doing devotions” are behind me. I’m thankful that I am growing closer to God, in community, and that I feel renewed and refreshed on a daily basis. I feel like I am taking care of my whole being…. I eat well, I exercise, I have energy and joy to take care of my family, I am learning and growing with my community, I’m having a lot of fun, and I am serving the people around me with a joyful heart.  I feel close to God, Lord of my life, and am serving Him with my whole being. 


  1. Tina, thank you so much for sharing this. It's given me a lot to think about...will write more after I have had more time to mull over it :) xoxo

  2. LOVE IT! I think you put into words what we've been feeling for so long. I definitely have similar ways to connect with God that happen to be outside of Bible reading (like cooking, and praying while long as Joel isn't chattering in my ear!) I think I'm still learning to "drop the guilt" which is part of the perfectionist in me trying to unlearn what's been drilled in my head as a child. I am also thankful for all your prayers. We appreciate every prayer we can get! You rock!

  3. Thank you for sharing from your heart! I really needed to hear/read this today! Lots of love from Korea.

  4. Hi Christina - this is a wonderful post, and of course Darnell is so right that you have something valuable to share. Thank you for being such an encouragement!