A Surprising Lesson In How To Let Go of Guilt

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Guilt’s snarly voice came mocking. You blew it- again. I thought you were- dependable. Instead, you’ve let everybody down. Even the people you love. And you preach to others about being intentional. What a joke. How do you even stand yourself?

The heavy, cold, scratchy blanket of shame stifled me. I felt trapped by its tight pull, gasping for air. “I’m so sorry, Lord!“, I cried out. “Please forgive me!”. The blanket loosened. I could breathe and see light coming down from the opening in the top above my head. I struggled to look up. The blanket dropped to my lap as I heard the Lord’s tender voice whisper to my soul, “Why are you apologizing?

Well, because I didn’t get everything done at work that was expected of me,” I stammered. “And my kids really wanted me to go to the store and fix their favorite dinner. And I promised my daughter I would get her favorite dessert for her lunchbox. I didn’t connect with the people at church I was supposed to and I still haven’t returned that phone call!” My voice grew louder and shriller as I continued rattling off my litany of unmet expectations. “I’ve let everyone down!” I bellowed, still clinging to the scratchy wool crumpled in my lap.

So, why are you apologizing, to Me?” He repeated. I felt confused. “Well, because if I have disappointed them, then doesn’t that mean I have disappointed You?” I asked, puzzled.

I’m not disappointed, child. I’m actually pleased,” came His gentle reply.

What?!” I asked incredulously. “How can that be?!”

When I walked this earth, people pressed in at me from all sides. They all had expectations of me. For most of them I was a let down. I didn’t do what they wanted or expected, rather I did what the Father told me they needed. Some were disappointed by me. Others even angry. Through it all, I cried out to my Father and continued to look up, just as you did. He directed my steps and I accomplished His purpose for me – and sometimes that meant letting others down.”

“You did the very best you could at work – I saw your heart.  Monday starts a new week and while the tasks are still there, so shall you be and they will be completed eventually. It’s ok. You fed your children and gave them the sweet taste of your prayers rather than a dessert in their lunchbox. That is what they needed most. Maybe I needed to show some women at your church that contrary to their perceptions, you don’t have it all together all the time and you aren’t perfect. And the phone call  – it will happen in it’s perfect time.”

“So do I need to apologize to everyone else – you know, for letting them down, I mean?” I asked, still trying to make sense of this heart conversation that contradicted everything I was feeling right now.

“Well, you can tell them all how much you love them, and that you are sorry they were disappointed. Don’t apologize for letting them down though, because you offered them what they needed, even though it wasn’t what they wanted. There is no need to apologize for that”.

I realized at that moment what a liar Guilt had been. He tried to shame me for not giving others what they want. I realized for the first time that sometimes not giving them what they want meant giving them what they need. Lessons in grace, patience, flexibility, trust in God rather than me to always pick up the pieces.

I hadn’t shoved aside the people I love. I had tried with every ounce of my being to please them. Time just hadn’t allowed me to do it all. And it was okay. In fact, in this instance, it was God’s plan for them not to get everything they wanted. 

“Go away, Guilt! I’m only about pleasing God, trusting that He will direct my steps, allowing me to accomplish His purpose! And that will mean everybody gets whats needed.

God spoke again. “Yes, child. Trust me in all things. I can use their disappointment to accomplish great things in their lives. I will always give you time to accomplish what needs to be done. I am the One Who created time and I Am never in a hurry!”

Guilt and shame now lay crumpled on the floor unable to block my vision, stifle my breath or fill my grasp.

Trust in the LORD will all your heart. Lean not on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge Him – and He will direct your steps. Proverbs 3:5-6 came to mind.

Go away, Guilt! There’s no room for you on this path.

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