My evening was open and free last night, as my husband would be occupied and I had no appointments. I asked the Lord, as I often do, “What would you like to do this evening? What would be a good thing?” The reply came, “Read my Word together.”
A predictable answer, tho certainly not a stock answer. I honestly don’t always pray about what to do with my free time, and when I do I’ve heard many answers, ranging from “go take a bubble bath and pamper” to “let’s go play in the garden” to “let’s go shopping.” So it’s not like God is strict with me about such things. I do always enjoy reading the Scriptures, they nourish me so, and I’ve done too little of that lately.
So what did I do? I got my Bible and sat it on the table beside me, then got out a movie I’d been wanting to watch. And for two hours I watched it with my Bible laying by my side, as if that little conversation never happened. When the movie was over, it was too late and my eyes too tired for anything but sleep.
I went to bed feeling guilty, and awoke knowing I had disappointed my Lord. He did not speak to me harshly, but when I confessed my sin to him, he said, “It was your choice to make. The devil didn’t make you do it. You chose what you really valued last night.” I feel awful, about my choice, my weakness, the fact that I blithely ignored my Lord’s response just to entertain myself, without a backward glance. I walked right past him to that shelf of movies, as if he wasn’t there and hadn’t answered my question. In a way, it horrified me how very easy it was. It is easy because he is, after all, invisible, and because he is always so gentle and gracious to me.
As I ask forgiveness of my Lord, I do so against a backdrop of awareness that some would consider this legalistic behavior on my part. “For goodness’ sake, Toni, it’s not like you broke one of the Ten Commandments!” I hear in my imagination. But here is the truth. What I did was to sin against the intimate love I share with the Lord, against the expectations, hopes and faith we put in one another. I ignored him, and I trampled on his gracious nature and favor, his gentle love for me.
Entertainment isn’t a sin; but acting as if the Lord’s desires matter to me and then ignoring him, is. He is my friend, and I am His. My choice was a sin against the closeness we share and the goodness that is meant to pass between us every day. James 4:17 says it perfectly: “He who knows the good he ought to do and doesn’t do it, sins.”
I have been on the receiving end of a moment like this, often enough to know exactly how it feels. In every intimate relationship I have, with husband, son, daughter, friend, I have experienced this kind of treatment. They are all wonderful people, but at times what I needed, expected or hoped for from them didn’t come. I have been ignored, neglected, had promises broken. Have not we all? I never doubt any of these people love me, but in the course of our relationships they have chosen other things over paying attention to me at times that registered enough to hurt, left feeling as if I didn’t matter very much.
And I am guilty of doing this to the ones I love as well. We all do it. We all make choices in moments that feel perfectly innocent; when we are tired or need to tend to self rather than someone else, or something else just captivates – a book, movie, hobby, special event, a work project – that temporarily shoves everything and everyone else to the back of the line. And it is easiest to do this to the ones we know will be most gracious, is it not?
There are sins beyond the Ten Commandments, and they are sins of love. They are sins against love. You won’t find them written on stone, but they should be written in the heart. In my heart, they go something like this:
Thou shalt pay attention to the covenant loves in your life.
Thou shall not break the faith you have invited others to place in you.
Thou shalt be steady in how you treat an intimate; respect, love, and goodness are always due.
Thou shalt live your values, not being a pretender, even in private.
Thou shalt own up to your sins against love, and ask forgiveness for them.
Yes. The fact is that “for goodness’ sake” we must needs love well at all times.