Hello guilt, my old friend.
I’ve missed your company. The feeling of never being good enough, always failing, continually striving for perfection, but continually missing the mark. Yes, I know guilt well. And we can’t forget his ever-present neighbor, shame. They like to come visit me at the most inconvenient of times. In the middle of a laugh or smile, in the middle of a fun night with my family- they like to come in the middle of a precious moment and immediately steal the joy from it. They love to remind me of my weakness, of my insecurity, of my failure, of my imperfection.
They like to remind me of that thing I said, or did- or didn’t say or didn’t do. I’m reminded of the times I tell myself that next time I’ll do better; next time I’ll be better. And they remind me that no matter how hard I try, I don’t get better.
You try, and you try, and you try and then you fall back into old habits. Old patterns. Old attitudes. You slide back down to the things you used to say, and the things you used to do. And who’s there to greet you at the bottom? Your old friend guilt. Your old friend shame.
And you think to yourself, how did I get back here? How did I slide back so far? You thought you had gotten better. You thought you had conquered those thoughts, those attitudes. You fought so hard, and you thought you had changed. It’s a slow fade. Most of the time you don’t even realize you’re sliding.
So you keep trying. You slide down and you climb back up. But life seems to be a continuous cycle of climbing- no matter how high you get, there’s always room to slide back again.
But guilt and shame don’t know the things I know.
These dear friends don’t see the hope that I see. They don’t understand that their presence in my life means something.
It means that I’m striving for something better- something better than my old ways, something more loving than my old actions, something more understanding than my old thoughts. I’m striving for love, for grace, for honesty, purity, kindness, and forgiveness.
No matter how far I fall, no matter how far back I slide, you know what else is there to greet me at the bottom, that’s more powerful than guilt or shame?
Abounding grace. Never ending. Eternal. Unconditional.
Grace that is sufficient for my weaknesses. Grace that carries me through life no matter how many times I fail. This is the hope that I see that guilt and shame cannot see: grace.
I’m praying for a better attitude.
I’m praying for a more understanding heart.
A softer tongue.
A more loving soul.
I’m praying for better.
And I fail. And I’ll continue to fail. But I won’t give up. I won’t quit. Because that guilt and shame that I feel, those burdens that I cannot seem to run away from, they mean something. They mean that I’m working towards better. That’s what matters. That is what is important.
So I choose not to listen to their lies- when they tell me that I’ll never make it, that I’ll always be a failure. Because I have grace. I choose to listen to that small voice reminding me that I have grace that covers my weakness. I have grace that is sufficient for all my failure. That’s what matters. That’s the hope that I see.
I will not choose guilt or shame. I choose grace.
“’My grace is sufficient for thee: for my strength is made perfect in weakness.’ Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest upon me.” | 2 Corinthians 12:9