Letting Go of Guilt
I have a confession to make. I was traveling home the other day from a training, and as I walked through the airport, I passed an open area of seating and vending machines. I noticed an older gentleman peering at a vending machine as if he couldn’t figure out how to use it. I walked on to my gate, but something in me said, “Go back and see if he needs help.” So, I turned around and went back. I entered the area—keeping my distance—to assess if he really needed my assistance. As I surveyed the situation, I talked myself out of offering to help. My thinking went something like this.
You don’t want to offend him.
You can’t assume that just because he is older he needs help.
He looks smart enough. You don’t want to insult his intelligence.
So, I moseyed out of the area and back to my gate. I have to admit—I was feeling a bit guilty. Although I could rationalize my decision, in my heart I knew I should have offered to help. His response was not the issue. Why didn’t I? What held me back?
I was lost in thought as the announcement was made for early boarding. Guess who walked up to board early? You guessed it. The gentleman I should have helped. I was certain the Lord was trying to tell me something. Hang on, the story gets better.
I was upgraded to first class on the flight, which is always a treat. As I walked on the plane and glanced at my aisle seat, guess who was sitting next to the window? Yep, the same gentleman. You can bet I started praying right away. Literally. Whatever the Lord wanted me to do or say, I wanted to do it!
I wish I could tell you something miraculous happened, but it didn’t. We visited, but he had trouble hearing, and he was difficult to understand. I was kind and polite. We made small talk. I can’t help but wonder if things would have been different had I responded to the initial prompting the first time I saw him. Maybe it would have been—maybe not. I will never know. I’m fairly certain, however, that this chance encounter had nothing to do with him and everything to do with me. God gave me an opportunity to serve—to love my neighbor—and I chose to walk on by. Not a proud moment for me.
I really had to do some soul searching in my quiet time with the Lord. Why would I ignore His prompting? What was I afraid of? What did I have to lose? I didn’t have good answers to any of these questions. The longer I pondered them the more disappointed I became in myself. Guilt set in…again.
Satan would love it if I would stay in this self-loathing, defeated place. When I focus on my shortcomings, I completely lose sight of who God is. When I lose sight of the loving, powerful, merciful God, I lose sight of my calling. In those moments I can’t see how God wants to use me because I become too focused on my failures. While I don’t like being this vulnerable, shining light on my guilt and confessing my sin of omission paves the way for God’s forgiveness. I am so thankful for God’s love, mercy, and faithfulness despite my sinful nature.
The faithful love of the Lord never ends! His mercies never cease.
Great is his faithfulness; his mercies begin afresh each morning.
Lamentations 3: 22-23
God doesn’t want us to live in defeat, full of guilt. Yes, we are guilty, but Jesus came to remove our guilt and give us a life of victory. Unfortunately, we will mess up. We will miss opportunities and, yes, we will sin. But as Lamentations notes, His mercies are new each morning. Guilt does not have to rule in our lives.
I made a promise. The next time I feel the prompting of the Holy Spirit, I am going to act. I will leave the results up to Him. I don’t want to be in the place of should of, would of, or could of. I want to consciously set my mind on things above, not on the things that are on earth (Colossians 3:2).
As we enter our schools each and every day, God is placing people (students, colleagues, parents, superiors) in our paths. He is truly at work all around us. What is He prompting you to do? To say?
· Maybe there is a student who seems alone and unhappy. Is God asking you to take an interest in him/her?
· Maybe there is a parent who is non-existent. Is God prompting you to reach out and offer assistance?
· Maybe there is a colleague who is combative. Is God leading you to exhibit kindness?
Whatever it is, I encourage you to pray and then act. Don’t rationalize remaining uninvolved. Don’t let the guilt of the past get in your way. Don’t let the fear of the unknown pave the way for more guilt. Just respond. God knows your heart. He’s got this!