The scene stayed alive on the edges of my heart, just waiting for a reason for prance on in. It wasn't a pretty scene, but nevertheless it loved to come out to play. Play havoc on my emotions, that is.
My son couldn't have been older than three or four. Meal times were still stressful for us even though he had graduated from Occupational Therapy and had a feeding tube in his little belly.
I had imagined my stress level plummeting by now because surely our troubles would be behind us and typical eating would be the new norm.
After another meal time that was really, just another fidget time, I lost it. Not every mom is a yeller, but I get there quicker than I want to. This time was shriller and louder and uglier than most, causing my little guy to run for the next room in tears.
And the picture of him crying into his hands tormented me for years. It messed with my head, it plagued me, it treated me like it's punching bag.
Until last week.
If you are a mom, you probably can identify with those feelings. Undoubtedly, you too have moments of regrets and words you would pay good money to take back.
You too have an uninvited movie reel that enjoys reminding you of the low-lights. Perhaps it is that one child or that dark season that makes you wish for a do-over. Like a dry erase board that could be wiped blank.
If you ever find yourself gazing at the dark ceiling above your bed, convinced that you are screwing your children up for life, you may suffer from guilt.
What is a mom (or a dad, or a normal human) to do with those feelings of guilt?
There are two very different kinds of guilt and if we mistake one for the other, we will be sad parents indeed.
Paul words it this way:
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.
From 2 Corinthians 7
These two kinds of sorrow are the two kinds of guilt I'm referring to.
1. One variety of guilt causes us to come eyeball to eyeball with our sin. That guilt is a helpful guilt. It is a gut check, the whistle blown on a foul play. We might not like this guilt, but we should.
2. The second variety is a life sucker. This guilt is the weight that keeps us eyeball to eyeball with our junk long after it has been forgiven. There is nothing wholesome about this brand.
Guilt produces bad feelings and bad feelings will never shake the guilt. No matter how often I revisit my bad behavior to punish myself, those negative feelings will never absolve my feelings of shame.
Is there some small part of you that believes that holding onto those guilty feelings is the just punishment you deserve? That justice demands that you never forget your wrongdoing?
It's easy to get sucked into that thinking.
But first things first.
We need to identify our guilt.
1. Is this a whistle being blown because I screwed up? If so, the remedy is so beautifully simple: repent. Repentance acknowledges the sin and decides to turn around and head the opposite direction. Guilt can do a good, good work if we let it.
We read over and over in scripture about God's response to our sin. Yes, we feel guilty but he forgives us without even a hesitation. There is no pause, no lull, no lapse. His forgiveness is quicker than immediate because he forgives us before we ever knew we needed it.
For some lovely reading check out Psalm 32:1-5, Psalm 85:2, Hebrews 10:22-23, Romans 8:1-2, Isaiah 43:25, 1 John 1:9, Hebrews 8:12.
That first brand of guilt is not one we are so quick to talk about. And maybe that is why the guilt hangs around for so long, because it is uncomfortable to address the sin that it's pointing to.
But it needs to happen and we moms are pretty good at doing the hard stuff. Muscles.
So now what is left?
What do we do with the Mom Guilt that just doesn't quit? The stuff that follows our thoughts around like a stray puppy? We have got to stop petting that sick puppy.
2. Is this guilt a pure energy drain? If there is nothing left for us to repent of, than we have to call it what it is: completely unnecessary mom guilt. If we do not drag it out, showing no mercy, it will bring death. Death to our joy, death to a good night's sleep, even death to relationships. It must go!
Right here is the difference between BEING GUILTY and FEELING GUILTY.
You can be completely guilty and not feel it and you can feel like a complete scumbag but be innocent.
Like the great Bible preacher Spurgeon said, "Sometimes our heart condemns us, but, in doing so, it gives a wrong verdict."
He must be in cahoots with the disciple John who talks about guilt this way:
Even if we feel guilty,
God is greater than our feelings,
and he knows everything.
From 1 John 3
Moms, or anyone struggling with guilt, we need to recognize this last kind of guilt as a feeling. What do we do with our feelings? Or maybe the question is actually: what should we do with our feelings? (Because inhaling a bag of sweet potato chips may be my reality but not an actual solution.)
Hey friends, contrary to what some people have told us,
Our feelings are not our boss!
They do not have to yank us around by the hair and dictate our actions and thoughts.
The Holy Spirit is our Boss if we let him be and I know what he says about me and you and our old sins.
Don't miss this! This is so good and so important.
My guilt is removed and my sins are forgiven! (Isaiah 6:7)
God declares me right in his sight because I believe in Jesus! (Romans 3:26)
Because I have been made right, I have peace in me, not guilt! (Romans 5:1)
Hey Mom! Yes you, the imperfect one. You are not judged guilty!
Last week, God spoke to my guilty heart loud and clear, soft and kind. He let me know that he was in the ugly moment in my living room, mothering my son the whole time. He was motioning for me to come receive the healing and the forgiveness even at the very instant of my mom fail.
But the words he spoke to me were not just for me, they are for you too. And don't you know, when God speaks, we listen up.
It's over. It's done. Stop sitting in it. Stop replaying the bad.
The guilt is gone. Gone! See ya later. Adios. Fare thee well.
Don't you dare pick it back up or stoop to pet it again. Let. It. Go.
There is no need to let guilt boss you around ever again.
You are welcome to walk through your days...