It's been like a burden to me and also something that has caused a lot of dysfunction in my life. A breeding ground for unbalanced relationships.
Why do I always feel guilty for things I didn't do? Or maybe did do a long time ago but are already forgiven?
I've long wrestled this questions and recognize them on my soul as easily as I see the dark blue in my eyes or finger the scars on my hand. I know those soul scars well. I've always known them. From way back. What guilt feels like when it is so deep seated its fused into your marrow.
I know whatever is the problem it seems in some way it formed within me. I am the problem.
Isn't that how condemnation works? It is a downward spiral of becoming the bad, not just admitting you have done bad. It curves a soul in the bent of self hatred and opens it up to the possibility of perpetuating that very thing it so hates.
That's been me. For a long time.
I'm quick to give out grace usually. I wear guilt like the retro flyer jacket I slip on, so I recognize the same jacket on others. I can tell their soul is tagged with the same brand. I identify with that can't wash off the shame feeling. See that in the eyes because I know it stains my own.
I'm quick to forgive usually and find it almost a relief to assume the blame. To be the blame.
Even when there is a big part of me that knows I'm not the sum total of blame. It just feels safer.
Here's the thing...
This Autumn I actually did need the grace. I had something deep to feel the guilt for and I needed someone to offer me grace. Real grace. It's weird because I'm so used to wearing guilt for nothing, for the unidentified; however, now I know what it feels like to wear it and it fits because I'm guilty. I needed to be the one on the receiving end of grace. But part of me didn't want it. I wanted to wriggle away and receive all the guilt again. Be the source. Be punished. Like a cycle. I wanted to flee and be scape goat for all guilt. Even the parts that weren't mine. One person on the chopping block. But only Jesus is the scape goat, the sum sin bearer for all. And then I would flinch and want to say I had nothing to do with any of it. I didn't like what it mirrored back to me. The refection I saw of myself. I hated it.
But in the end I realized there is a medium. There is a time to embrace my guilt and accept it and then be at the mercy of God and others and there is also a time to discard the the parts that aren't mine.
I sinned and there was no way around it. Of course it wasn't mine only to shoulder and many factors went into it, many lies had been spun, a perfect season in my life was prepped for the storm, and my soul had been completely deceived. But I was wrong. Deeply wrong. I wasn't sin, but I had sinned.
Really my soul had been deceived in the thinking that it could help another soul out of their chains. And it was too big a job for me. One that was never mine. One I knew wasn't mine to bear, but wanted to try anyways. One I wasn't up to and got me into a tidal wave of sorrow and trouble. We are never people's savior. Ever. The moment we assume to do something or be something to someone that only God should do or can do we step into dangerous territory. We will sink.
I'm still trying to process it, but something I know that I have received is grace.
I've received it in hugs, kisses, sweet words, in the faces of my children, in the hands and big heart of my husband, and in the notes of people who know, but are saying they know who I really am and still want me.
That is hard.
Hard to wear love and grace when it feels dishonest.
But isn't that what Jesus always does.
He disrobes us of our filth when we repent and gives us something brand new and not from us to wear. His righteousness. And we have the choice to wear it or pull out the same filthy rags and fall again. Because if we don't start wearing the new robe, we descend again. Into something of the same or something worse perhaps much worse.
It's a conscious decision to wear it. An every day, every hour decision to walk in it.
It's the crux of the gospel, the good news that though I be guilty as sin, I'm still loved anyways. I can be bathed in forgiveness and released if I will. And how do I do it when it is all still so fresh?
I read these words from author Charles Martin. Every time I read these words my eyes swim with tears. It's a study into Psalm 51 fresh on the heels of David's downfall.
If you don't read anything else today or this week, read this...
Whether your sins seem small or so thick you can't see through them to the grace light on the other side...Read it..
David left the dead baby his sins had formed, the wailing of the woman he had hurt, and the rock bottom of his life and did one thing He worshipped........
It's part of why He was the man after God's heart. When met with his own filth He still sought out the heart of God and knew even in the specter of His own evil there was Hope. That somehow despite the mess he had created something good could be birthed. That even in our lowest hole the way out is through repentance and then worship. Worship even when no one else maybe accepts you back. Because God always does when a heart beats authentic contrition and is ready to be free.
Whatever the guilt you are wearing you can let it go even if it scares you to do so...and it may be a letting go every day. That when you dress yourself you don't retrieve it out from the back of the closet. That every day you decide not to wear it.
Though David was thoroughly humiliated in his sin God transfigured it to give us Psalm 51. We wouldn't have that treasure without the tragedy.
Sometimes God allows the fall because He knows the rebuilding will be worth it. He allows us to prodigal flee so we can come back deeper, closer, and nearer to His chest than we have ever been. So we can worship in a way that isn't plastic or discussing some sins we are vaguely aware of that we are free from. So rather we can worship because we see just how much we are nothing but in need of Him. And always have been.