Thursday, January 17, 2008

The Blessing of Scrupulosity

An Intro

Scrupulosity in the form I am discussing here is the form of OCD that relates to intrusive thoughts about religion, commonly taking the form of having blasphemous thoughts towards the Holy Spirit, Jesus or the Father and fear of committing the unforgivable sin. Other possibilities are a hyper sensitivity towards whether something is or isn't a sin and a need to confess endlessly. My purpose here is not to discuss in great deal these but to discuss something quite differently, that is my experience with OCD and despite it being perhaps the most difficult thing I've ever had to deal with (and still do have to deal with) how God has used it in the most beautiful of ways.

My Experience

Scrupulosity is the most difficult form of OCD I have ever had to deal with. My thoughts began with me beginning to obsess over whether particular things were sinful, now this was not ordinary healthy concern over not wanting to offend God. This was not is it sinful to have sex outside marriage or more sensible concerns like those, this was concerns over whether ANYTHING that wasn't directly Christian was sinful. That is, was watching TV sinful, how about doing my degree? Seeing my girlfriend (at the time)? Listening to music that wasn't directly christian, talking about things that weren't directly Christian and playing sports and many other things I did enjoy were also up for extreme scrutiny. Obviously the questioning made those enjoyable things of life considerably less enjoyable and also gave me a view of God that He simply wanted me to be miserable all the time. Doing actual Christian activities would be a forced ritual done out of terror rather than love. Done in my own strength rather than thanks to God and the Holy Spirit, it was about what I did and do and not about what Jesus had done for me. Suicide at times seemed like a nice way out, but then again that would be a sin and force me into eternal damnation. I was trapped.

Thanks to some brilliant support people and medication I have managed to learn to understand these thoughts and the problems with them. I have had other forms of Scrupulosity such as the need to confess things to people when it is unneccessary but the purpose of this post isn't for that and the information here should suffice.

The Blessing?!

If you've read up to this point you may be wondering how I can call the most painful experience of my life, one in which suicide seemed like a nice option a blessing. The famous phrase 'The Lord works in mysterious ways' comes to mind. So why do I call it a blessing? I would firstly say this, I thank God for my Scrupulosity, not because I feel like some sort of special person for being a Christian and having it or because I have a difficulty that I manage to deal with reasonably well. No, I thank God because my Scrupulosity corrected my views and opinions of God, it corrected many misconceptions I had, through the pain came Jesus. Through the pain came the cross.

So what exactly did I learn, well thanks to God primarily through the teaching of Pastor Bob Waters and others over at The Scrupe Group I was first directed to Colossians 2, this passage immediately showed me that I could still have fun, that I could go out and do things, that God didn't want me to be miserable. This was a vital first step but was only the beginning, this gave me a foothold against the OCD and some valuable insight but only put me in the position I was before these concerns had crossed my mind.

The most valuable lessons I have ever learnt would be the very core of Christian belief, predominantly to have a view outside of myself a view that looks towards Jesus and not to myself. A view that puts all the emphasis on Jesus and what he does and does not put the emphasis on me and what I do. That when Jesus said 'It is finished' - See John 19:30 - He meant it, that is to say I was saved about 2000 years ago by my God being crucified for me. Did I deserve it? No. Did I do anything to deserve it? No. Did I do anything to receive it? Again no. Stop and think about that for a minute, think about the beauty of this message, that is I did nothing, I do nothing, I deserved nothing (or actually I deserved eternal punishment) but still God came to save me.

Now, the above is not something I hadn't heard before, however it is something I'd never been taught in this way before. Many times people in churches and elsewhere hear that one is saved by Jesus or put another way by Grace alone, through Faith Alone, in Christ alone but are in the next breath told what they must do to receive this grace. We are given analogies such as God holding out his hand just waiting for us to take hold of him, we are asked to pray a 'sinner's prayer' or to 'accept Jesus into our hearts'. One must conclude from this teaching that we are infact saved not by Jesus but by Jesus and our decision. That is to say that somebody who is dead can still make a decision - Ephesians 2:1 and further to say that when Jesus said it is finished he really meant, it is finished...sort of.

So why is this important? What difference does it really make in the mind of a Christian. To me the distinction is vital and the most beautiful thing God taught me through my scrupulosity. My focus now isn't what I do (even in as small a thing as making a decision, as a scrupulous person however this small 'requirement' can easily escalate, if it wasn't ACTUALLY finished when Jesus said it is, why believe now that it is finished when I make a decision aswell?) but is what God has done for me. One of my favourite sayings that Pastor Bob Waters said to me once when I was very confused was this 'It's not about you, It's about Jesus!'

So now my focus is different and this change of focus changed my life, now its not about how strong my belief is but that God's promises are true, I can now have my doubts but simply cling to the promises. I can have my troubles and my problems but remember that what Jesus did was sufficient. Fully sufficient.

That isn't to say that I have free license to go about doing as I please and sinning without care, that would simply constitute unbelief. No the work of the Holy Spirit in me to cause faith in me so that I can be saved by grace thanks to the sacrifice of Jesus causes not a fearful need to do certain 'christian' behaviour but a desire to please God, to serve not out of fear but out of love.

My focus is no longer lealistic, my faith is not predominantly about having good morals (although doing what God wants is consequential) the primary aspect of my faith is now Jesus and his sacrifice. My question is no longer What Would Jesus Do? The emphasis is not predominantly his moral teaching and trying to do the right thing. This is honourable and correct but the world and other religions teach good morals. I'm not saying we don't attempt to be Christ-Like, I'm not suggesting we shun the moral teaching for it is clearly important. What I am saying is it is NOT the primary focus of Christianity, no the primary focus is What Did Jesus Do? The primary focus is Christ and the cross and that is what the world and other religions cannot offer.

Why do I call my Scrupulosity a blessing? Through my scrupulosity I found the perfect sacrifice, I can now be thankful to the God who saves. I can now act out of love thanks to His work. I can now rely not on myself but on Him. Through my scrupulosity I found Christ.