Q: How would you characterize your years in the first mansion?
Honestly, in many ways it is hard to remember that time in my life, though some aspects of the first mansion I can definitely see in myself and those around me. I’m not sure I ever saw God as out for my own interests in giving me things or blessing me. I think I found myself on the opposite end of the spectrum in the shame category. I didn’t think God would give me what I asked for, because surely I had so much to learn. I bordered hardly ever asking God for anything at all, not because I thought He didn’t care, but because I didn’t think I had earned a right to ask yet. I had not been faithful enough yet. (Amazing, in a lot of ways, I still think that way). Plus, I was a nobody. I was just content with salvation. That was more than I deserved. Why would I ever ask for anything else? How prideful of me!
I can definitely relate to the honesty of the prayer life in this mansion. I was so thankful there was somebody interested in listening to me ramble, could handle my questions, and cared about the details of my life. I don’t really remember being tempted by “earthly pleasures” as much; probably because I was taught those things were wrong. My faith was very rigid and rules based; everything was black and white, but this probably corresponded with my age during this mansion.
My prayer times were pretty random, and I went in phases. I would talk to God every free moment I had for maybe a week, then another week would go by and I would realize I hadn’t even thought about God, and I would be filled with guilt for being such a “bad Christian.”
I should also mention my relationship with God was very “me” based. Even though I wasn’t asking for things for myself, my concept of humility was incredibly flawed. I believed a lie that I was worthless, despicable, and unworthy of anyone’s love. This was selfishness on the other end of the spectrum, as I constantly refused the idea that I might have worth in God’s eyes. That works for everyone else, but not for me. I was somehow exempt from the whole “for God so loved the world” thing. In the end, it was still all about me.
Lewis Smedes’ quote really struck me: “If you wonder where God’s grace can be found, find yourself a critical friend. A friend who wants you to be as good a person as you can be, a friend who dares to confront your flaws and failures, and then accepts the whole of you in grace.” I don’t remember having anyone in my life growing up that I felt loved me just because of who I am. Now that I am older, I realize that my perception was a little skewed, but I believed that I had to earn everyone’s love, acceptance, and respect. My philosophy was “guilty until proven innocent.” Working hard (first water phase) I could definitely identify with. Although I would say that grace was something I couldn’t earn, I lived the philosophy that I needed to prove myself deserving, and I didn’t even realize I was living that way. I needed to respect myself before God could respect me, and the former was just never going to happen. I had set the bar at perfection, and boy, did I ever fail!