The Problem With Guilt

The Problem With Guilt

We’ve been laying low in these parts for about a week and a half now.
It was time for some rest so we took a little break from “going hard in the paint” as Oakie likes to say…what does that even mean?! It just sounds messy…and weird. #absurdadages ANYWAY…I’ll be back with more adventures (& completely amazing, stunning, magazine-worthy, life-altering, earth-shattering photography) later this week. For now, just take this little exhale that I wrote a few weeks ago.

I shared this as a devotional for the women’s Bible study group on base recently & hope you will find in it a few cracks in your idea of me because through those, the light of Jesus will shine all the brighter.


I’ve had to pray for sleep lately. This is strange for me.

Sleep has always come easily, effortlessly. I’m the one who “can sleep anywhere, anytime.”

Plane rides, no problem.

Car rides, no problem.

Bedtime…roadblock.

It’s like a processing delay that takes advantage of my bedtime to catch back up. Everything I’ve pushed aside that day comes back to be processed & categorized & put away.

The Bible tells us that safe & restful sleep is part of our reward.

Proverbs 3:24- “If you lie down, you will not be afraid; when you lie down, your sleep will be sweet.”

Psalm 4:8- “In peace I will both lie down and sleep; for you alone, O Lord, make me dwell in safety.”

I’ve experienced this gift in abundance all my life, but now…now I have to ask for it. This humbled me. In fact, for at least a week straight of eyes-wide nights, I didn’t.

I tried sleep meditations.

Focusing on my breathing.

Quieting my thoughts.

Everything but asking God for it. And then, I did. One night, I was at the end of my sleepless self and I just asked. No lie, I was asleep in less than 3 minutes.

So, I wonder. What does this say about me?

Firstly, why am I struggling to sleep in this season?

Secondly, what is the root of this hesitancy to take my burden to Jesus?

In the moments before sleep finally won me over, the thoughts racing through my mind were, in part, excitement about the future; what the next day held for me. But those thoughts were easy to dismiss; to set aside as lower priority than my sleep.

It was the haunting, foreboding thoughts that lingered & gave me no rest.
In those quiet times before rest came, I was visited by griefs of the past.
Embarrassing moments.

Guilt over past sins.

Grief over the death of Romy. Consequential questioning of God’s plan for me & guilt for not “being over it already” or for “not trusting God enough.”

On the night when I asked God for sleep, & He graciously answered me without delay, it was as if a veil was torn away & I saw my sleepless nights for what they were: a death rattle of the enemy’s lies that have held me captive for so long.

It should come as no surprise that transitional periods tend to bring into the light elements of your life that have been tucked away. Moving to Japan has certainly done that for me & a large part of my recent sanctification has centred on my sin of guilt.

Guilt is a slimy sin that is deceitful in its essence & therefore, perhaps, more dangerous than blatant sins. Guilt tells you that this is your lot in life because of who you are, what you’ve done, etc. It tells you that it simply accompanies your sin kit & caboodle so there’s no way out. “If you sin, you get guilt forever” says its warped logic. And I sin…so I’m guilty. This makes sense…and I believed. Hook, line & sinker.

This has followed me my entire life. It has trained me to keenly observe other people’s words & actions & reactions as they apply to me so that I can measure up & be saved the guilt of letting them down. This has a name in society that I believe is, all at once, a misnomer & deadly accurate: People pleaser.

But really, I believe, it has made me incredibly self-centered. If every interaction with another human is really just an attempt to “read” them so I can appropriate the desired response (them liking me; me not having guilt that they don’t), then how in the actual heck am I truly listening? Caring? Loving THEM? You see…I’m not.

Guilt’s lie is that that is how you succeed. You listen to others only to the point that you can determine how to best make them like you and then you become that

or do that

or say that

and leave with a massive sigh of relief that you didn’t embarrass yourself or commit a faux pas.

Do you see how this completely leaves out of the equation a single thought about the other person except in the context of YOU?

But, you see, you pleased them, so it was good.

It was ok.

It was enough.

This is an accurate portrayal of my life. This was my modus operandi. My MO. My plan of action. My mission.

And it BLINDED me.
I looked at ‘selfishness’ as a sin of others.
I mean, here I am, doing everything I can to make others happy, so selfishness? Not my vice. Not my problem. Not my thing.

NOT THE TRUTH.

The enemy had me pegged.
He could get me to obsess over myself & count myself among the selfless all at once. A perfect recipe for an ineffective witness.

I was my own undoing.

I was my own stumbling block.

HE DIDN’T EVEN HAVE TO GET ANYONE ELSE INVOLVED.
This chick can handle HERSELF.

She can put herself on the sidelines of this cosmic game for people’s souls & I can get busy derailing somebody else.

BUT GOD.

Perhaps the most powerful words in Scripture.

It doesn’t matter what comes before those words because what comes after them will always change everything.

He didn’t leave me in that pattern; in that blindness; in that sin.

But He sure didn’t snatch me out of it either.

Scripture says God is slow to anger. But I sometimes wonder if the truth is shorter…God is slow.

This tempo is our salvation; were He not slow, we wouldn’t exist & we certainly wouldn’t know Him.
But it is also our chagrin. Why doesn’t He move faster? Why isn’t He immediate? Instant? Quick?

Then I look back & realize—almost in an instant—that I, too, am slow.
Made in His image, I reflect this truth about our God.
If He rushed me, forced me, dragged me to His conclusions, I would run, resist or resent Him…but God is slow.
He is patient with me. 1 Corinthians 13 says only two things that love is, before speaking about the rest of things that love is not: Love is patient & kind.

If God is love; then God is patient & kind.

God is slow.

He brings me along, as I am able to follow.
The past (almost) 3 years of marriage have been teaching me a lesson that I’m just now able to articulate.

I am not guilty.

I. Am. Not. Guilty.

I AM NOT GUILTY.

Most of the conflict in my marriage to date has revolved around the vestiges of guilt that I’ve carried in from my life before. These vestiges look like shame & defensiveness & an assumption of guilt. Oakie has slowly, faithfully, steadily shown me remarkable, immeasurable, boundless love that literally has NOTHING to do with what I did or didn’t do.

This has been mind-blowing.

How is his approval not determined by my action or inaction?

His mantra has become, “We’re on the same team.”

He reminds me that he is for me.

There is no need for shame because he knows everything & loves me.

There is no need for defensiveness because I am free in his love to do as I wish without defending my position.

There is no need for an assumption of guilt because he only ever assumes that I’ve done well & have acted with our best interest in mind.

In the beginning, this was nonsense to me.

Eventually, he would stop saying this. Eventually, he would be disappointed when I inevitably let him down & THEN all this guilt would be well deserved. Eventually, we’d start trading in this currency I know too well.

Guilt + Pressure = Desired Outcome

But three years really wears a girl down.

He’s been going strong with this, “I am for you. I trust you to make decisions for us. We’re on the same team,” nonsense for THREE YEARS.

So…maybe he’s telling the truth?

Maybe he actually, really, truly trusts & respects my opinions?

Maybe he really, really isn’t going to flip when the credit card bill comes in?

Maybe he honestly loves me after mistakes & hasn’t once “made me pay” in the form of guilt?

SHUT. UP.

Because here’s the thing…if human Oakie can do that…then divine God can do that.

And that means I’ve had it wrong this whole time.

You see, I believed the gospel, but I mostly believed it was for someone else.

I’ve kept church notes in notebooks for over a decade now and I have hundreds of pages filled with the gospel & its applications.

I can’t really explain this BECAUSE YES I KNOW IT’S CRAZY, but I always wrote my notes to a future “reader” and sometimes when passages came up about the freedom from shame & guilt we have in Christ, I honestly believed they were true for the person reading, but not for me.

Not for me.

That thought accompanied my writing.

“There is no condemnation for those that are in Christ Jesus…” but not for me.

“For I am convinced that neither death, nor life, […] nor any other created thing will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus…” …but not for me.

I wrote them down.

I understood them.

I yearned for their truth to woo unbelievers unto Himself…but not for me.

What was for me? The suffering & the trials & the tribulations that must be endured to be one of His. I knew & understood the pain you have to bear to be loved by someone. That’s how it goes, right? You try to be good enough, but you fail & He begrudgingly loves you anyway because He has to. He’s your Father…

But the freedom & unconditional love & acceptance in the Bible? Not for me.

I LITERALLY BELIEVED THAT.

Y’all.

How blind do you have to be to literally miss almost every single point of the gospel when you’ve written it down yourself for over ten years?

Like, coke-bottle-glasses-blind.

But God is slow.

So it’s ok if I am slow.

And now, I am awakening to this wild idea that all those good, precious, earth-shattering truths are for me.

I am walking in a brand-new confidence, but it’s not in myself, it’s in HIM. He already loves me, so now I can love me.

I can be ok with myself.

I can sin & not live in fear of the gauntlet or the new level of begrudged love He has for me. It’s counterintuitive, but do you know how much easier this makes repentance?
I always HATED the idea of repentance.

It always looked to me like a guilty kid ‘fessing up & accepting the new, diminished love that she deserved.

WHY WOULD I PUT MYSELF THROUGH THAT?

I’d rather avoid the unpleasant business altogether and stick with THIS level of love…

But now, repentance is an act of inviting Jesus into my sin (I actually say those words in my heart) and asking Him to grant me MORE forgiveness & grace than I had before. And there’s no danger of sinning more so I can get extra grace because each time I receive it, I walk away with a deep gratitude that motivates me to give Him more of my life lived in love—which, as we know, is patient & kind.

I want to be more patient & kind after repentance than I did before & that, in & of itself is reason enough to keep coming back.

Isn’t that how we want to live?

With patience & kindness?

So if repentance is the road, then I will pave it with daily invitations, asking Jesus to take my sin & in its place give me forgiveness & grace.

And I will leave with more than I came with.

More patience for others’ sin.

More kindness for myself & those around me.

& More love for my incredibly generous Saviour, Jesus.

So THIS is the gospel I keep hearing about.

Advertisements