In consideration of the previous discussion about doctrine and summaries, here: The other thing is guilt. I’ve written doctrine for a lot of things. I’ve covered a spectrum of issues and essentially figured out what I actually believe about things. Good stuff. It’s foundational, essential legwork if I’m really going to live my life for this and mean it. And I am. But in all of that, I don’t really have a theology of guilt. This is my fault, but it’s also someone’s fault. Why don’t I have to? Why isn’t it important? It’s not need-to-know knowledge like the characteristics of God. But when I feel it and I’m not sure what’s going on, it sure feels need-to-know to me.
The thing about guilt is that because I’m not sure how to process it, it tends to come and go without too much fanfare. It feels uncomfortable and so I escape it, like I do with uncomfortable things. Escaping is something I do skillfully. They do not pay me, so I cannot adulterate the title “professional” but my expertise in the area far supersedes anyone who has sought and achieved sponsorship for escapism. Escaping guilt doesn’t need to last long. Guilt fades with sleep, with social setting, with scene change. Guilt gets swallowed up by life. It recurs and I hate it, but I hit “repeat” and run from it again, always in ignorance.
When I read about the conscience I enter into a discussion of guilt, but still wonder if any of them are for me. Guilt creeps in when we violate our conscience. We know when we’ve disobeyed rightness like a child with a mouthful of gummy worms face to face with an angry Mom minutes before dinner. But that’s not the kind of guilt I’m worried about today. I screw up and I feel guilty. Seems fair.
But what about false guilt? What about when I don’t screw up and I do feel guilty? And I’m not talking about a little pain-in-your-stomach kind of gummy-worm-eating guilt. I’m talking chemically unbalancing force attempting to hurtle you into a physiological and mental state of depression from regret. Days of this. Worse, nights after sleepless nights. For weeks, maybe. Months? And then some rest. And then all of it crashing down on you again for some number of dark days that all blend together. Horrible.
I find that guilt is always just a question. Never does comfort follow. Or assurance. Or any answer at all. Just a weighty question and a void. And I wonder how much of it is consequence for some sin, some negligence or failure on my part. I sometimes think this haunting is my due condemnation. I mean, I’m not sure, but my God is not a God of torture. That’s heresy. He is just, but I do not know Him like this.
And I can live in tension, but this is My Healer we’re talking about. My Provider. Who comforts me when I’m a hot mess and puts my crushed self back together. He challenges me, yes. But this whole question plus the void plus the pain pressing guilt in on me doesn’t seem like a formula He would be into. Which leads to a bit of a scary thing for someone like me…I think there is something evil about false guilt in this particular sense that I’m imagining/experiencing it.
One year ago today, I began my battle with guilt because I somehow thought that I had the power to mess up everything God had planned for gals that I felt were in my spiritual care. I woke up every day in deep apology to my Savior for severely failing Him. My soul became callous to forgiveness. I thought He had put me somewhere, in a season of life I didn’t really ask for to begin with, for a purpose, and I had failed to achieve that purpose in the worst way.
I honestly don’t know why God let me be a youth leader. Fact is, I don’t know a lot. Probably not enough to guide these beautiful girls in their walks with the Lord. That time in my life was actually a very painful season for me, and youth leading had everything to do with it. It hurts to fall in love with people. To hurt when they hurt, to worry about them, to want to make all the right choices for them. When my heart breaks for “my girls,” I wonder if God feels that way about us. Maybe He was trying to give me a slice of His heart. I love them, even though they’re all off at college caring about whatever college kids care about. If love is tangible, I don’t do it well. But I’ve never wanted more out of this life for anyone as I have for these three Daughters of the King.
In this year, I’ve learned that guilt isn’t right. Maybe false guilt is evil, I don’t know. But it sure ain’t right. Everything that went down went down right, because more than anything, I believe my God is in charge. Nothing gets by Him. Nothing surprises Him. They crucified Jesus, His Son…but it was okay – remember? And so is this. It is okay.
To you, Bails. Loved you with all I had, girl.
Elise. Jess. Katie. Thinking of you today. Love you, dearly, gals. So dearly.