It was a beautiful August day that found the kids and I headed out to Toys R’ Us to scoop up the super scooter sale. The kids were chatting as I drove down hard roads, me looking ahead but really seeing Calvin sitting on the bed where I left him with the nurse. And feeling guilt. Guilty that he wasn’t with his momma but with a nurse he didn’t know, guilty that he wouldn’t get a chance to ride those $15 buck-a-piece joy rides. Some days I hate it all, the reality of this brokenness. That’s the truth of it.
And at the bottom of it all, I hate my play in it. It sounds like crazy talk, people like me who feel like they let danger walk right in and take their child and look back each day and kick themselves with guilt (real or imagined) at what they could have or should have done. But there’s no going back. There’s no backing up and protecting anymore. And all you have is one another in heaps of brokenness, sitting at Jesus’ feet begging for undeserved redemption and regretting all that is so wrong.
We sat at the dinner table, Darryl holding it all together while I tried to feign eating salad with tears as the dressing. “Mom’s just extra sad today about Calvin,” he explained. “But why?” she asked in nine-year-old astonishment, “he has a wonderful life with us.” And I longed for her simplicity.
People can talk til they’re blue in the face with rationale and logic and all the it’s-not-your-faults ever uttered. It doesn’t penetrate the remorse, the guilt that clings to our dirty souls. So is there hope for people like me who feel the weight of guilt pushing down so hard it’s hard to see tomorrow? What if you did take a person’s life out of negligence? What if you did cause irreparable damage to another?
How do I live with the fact that I did carry out a pregnancy in Cambodia? That perhaps something I had done (or had not done) may have resulted in contracting the virus that affected our son. Is the reality of the gospel big enough for this? Can the gospel conquer our (my) guilt, verified or not? Where can we go with our soul-suffocating guilt?
Take refuge in God’s providence. If you are in Christ then he really does use “all” things, the mess-ups and sin of it all, and work it for good. He uses it to change us (repentance) and make us more like Jesus. When things seem out of hand and we’ve caused it all to smash to smithereens, He holds it. All the smithereens and wrong deeds and mistakes. It’s never out of His hands or too broken for Him to work.
Give your guilt to Jesus. When guilt blinds us so that even the cross seems irrelevant, focus on who Jesus says he is and what the Word tells you he is. He is Immanuel (God with us guilty ones), Light of the World (shining into our most dark and shameful crevices), and Man of Sorrows (not removed from our grief, he weeps with us and dies for us so our tears can be forever wiped away). He is the Vine (a lifeline to escape this death and grasp life), a Redeemer (taking the ashes we want to forget and making beauty), a Lamb (taking your guilt upon Him, taking it from you!) Do you see? Feed your guilt-ridden soul with Jesus.
Plead on the promises of redemption. I’m glad my kids think Calvin has a great life, however, I often feel like he is living the years that “the locust have eaten” and I live for the reality of the promise that God will take these years back. His loss is staggering and still can fill me with despair. Because Jesus bore our loss and conquered despair, we can plead the reality of the promise that this brokenness will not compare to the glory that is coming. I repeat daily the promises of God that He does not intend our destruction but complete redemption in Christ. And I pray God continually shows that in ways here in this take-a-breath-then-it’s-gone place and then forever in eternity.
One day He will make all things right. At the end of the day I may come to grips spiritually and intellectually with my own burden of guilt but Calvin’s condition doesn’t change, he will always suffer the effects of brain damage. I long to see my son restored in body and soul and would give my life for it if I could. Can you imagine how God must see our brokenness and long for the day He will heal us completely? He too is waiting to restore His own; there must be many good reasons why He hasn’t done so today. So we can live patiently in the hope of the coming restoration while still daily limping along with our guilt, giving it over and over to Jesus. He overshadows the darkness within, battling for the inches of our souls until glory, where there is no more shadow of guilt.
J.J. Heller’s song “Your Hands” seems fitting.