I have to admit I didn’t want to attend church last Sunday. If Darren hadn’t been so determined, I would have found 100 excuses not to go. I told myself it was because I was just tired, and I needed Sunday to be a real day of rest.
But God called my bluff 2 minutes into the service, and kept them coming through the whole morning. Our worship leader talked about how God wanted our worship time to simply be about giving and receiving God’s love. And my heart was refusing, with walls up a mile high. Why? Because I have been so easily frustrated with my girls lately, and I wanted to beat myself up for it a bit longer. If I opened my heart to receive God’s love, I would have to forgive myself and accept His forgiveness. And I didn’t want to.
The worship leader talked about how her little girl came up during worship practice and for no reason simply said “I love you Mommy!” and then ran off, and how deeply it touched her as an example of how our spontaneous love touches God’s heart. I was still refusing. Still stewing in my own muck.
Amara had started feeling sick on the drive to church (another reason not to go, I argued), so she was cuddled on my lap instead of in children’s church. Suddenly she reached up and whispered in my ear, “Mommy, I love you so much. Even when you get frustrated, I love you. You are the best mommy in the WHOLE world. And I love you even when you have owies on your face.” (owies are the zits my face produced – mistakenly thinking I am 14, not almost 40). And just as suddenly Jesus whispered in my other ear “If this little girl, who’s feelings you hurt this morning – if she can forgive and still love you… why do you think so little of my love? Why would you block out my love and forgiveness and refuse me?”
And my heart broke. My walls came down. Even though I knew the walls were hurting me and those around me, I still wanted to keep them there. I envisioned my children doing the same to me. If they had made a mistake – even a really big mistake… if they put those walls up and refused me to forgive them, how it would hurt me! And ultimately mostly hurt themselves.
God brought to mind another church service, months earlier; so I scrolled through the notes on my phone and found them, each point jumping out at me.
They read like this:
~Guilt really attaches us to the past
~Guilt is the biggest barrier to Christian growth
~True sorrow leads to life, worldly sorrow leads to spiritual death
2 Corinthians 7:10 (NLT) For the kind of sorrow God wants us to experience leads us away from sin and results in salvation. There’s no regret for that kind of sorrow. But worldly sorrow, which lacks repentance, results in spiritual death.
~Godly guilt leads us to God
~There should be no regret for the past because that isn’t me. I am free!
~Worldly sorrow has much to do with pride
~It attacks who you are
~We must let go of how we want people to think of us and embrace who we are in God
~Guilt chokes the life out of you instead of drawing you closer to God
~Sort through your guilt. Trash the worldly guilt and embrace Godly sorrow
~Sorrow is a miracle. Don’t shy away from it or hide from it. Examine it and embrace Godly sorrow.
I had arrived steeped in guilt; sitting in that theatre seat where we do church. I left feeling full of hope and forgiveness.
I know I am not the only woman to feel this: this overwhelming load of guilt. I am not the only mother who has bad days (more than we would like to admit – even to each other) where we don’t parent the way we want to. Where we aren’t the wives we wish we could be, or the friend that we feel we are needed to be. There is guilt on every side, threatening to swallow us up.
My challenge to myself this week is to take a moment to categorize my sorrow before allowing the emotions of it to run away with me. Is it a Godly sorrow that leads to repentance and change? Is there any change that needs to happen, or is it simply a guilt I am heaping upon myself because I want people to think differently of me? If I am drowning in worldly guilt – how can I stop, take note of it and decide what to do with it? Do I need to just cast it off, or is there something I can allow God to use to bring change in me?
I am determined to not let my past mistakes with my kids, determine our future. Even though I know I will make many more and I will never be a perfect parent, I am determined to be a parent who teaches my kids how to move through mistakes. How to pick ourselves up, brush off the worldly guilt, and cling to our God. I’m so thankful God didn’t allow me to be stuck in my guilt, but used my sweet, forgiving little girl to teach me an incredible lesson.
Even though I often feel that being a parent brings out the worst in me, and that I wonder if there isn’t a better person for this job – my children humble me by their love for me. And one way I will love them back is by not letting myself be beat down by this guilt that paralyzes, that brings hardness and anger to my heart.
So now that I have written a post about it, I must have this figured out right? WRONG! This will be a post I will need to revisit often because my memory is so short. As a sweet friend said to me one day “Go back and read your own blog – there’s some things in there you need to learn again”. I will add this one to my list.