By Tricia Lott Williford
I’m pretty sure I was teetering under the weight of everything I carried into my mom’s house - the carseat, the diaper bag, bottles, milk, binkies, blankets, burp cloths, a page of typed instructions, and finally my newborn baby boy. Aside from my full hands, I carried a heart heavy with heaps of anxieties as a new mom.
Tucker was a few weeks old, and this was my first night back to my part-time job as a writing teacher. I placed everything in my mom’s hands and in her care, and as I snuggled Tucker and kissed his face one more time, I said, “Mom, can you please hold him a lot tonight? I think I didn’t hold him enough today.”
First of all, let’s address how gracious she was to entertain my anxieties that I would leave my son in her care, after she had in fact raised me with little to no major errors in childcare decisions. She let me rattle off my list of instructions, acting and listening as though she were a novice at all things childcare.
Even greater than the gift of acknowledging my emotions - even though they were irrational, she then gave me this gift that I have carried with me every day since. As I asked her to fill in the gaps I had left by not holding him all day long, she hugged me said, “Trish, you can feel guilty about that if you want to, but honestly, there will be so many real things for you to feel guilty about as a mother. I wouldn’t waste my energy on that if I were you.”
Somehow, she both acknowledged and dismissed my conviction in one fell swoop. And she was so right! I couldn’t have imagined then how many times I would lay awake and wish I could do parts of the day over again - this time with patience and a more gentle voice. Sometimes I wish could pick and choose which parts of my parenting my children will remember and which ones will be cast aside as deleted scenes.
There are real things to feel guilty about, so there’s no sense in wasting energy on the pretend ones. But real guilt can be good and healthy. It can open the door to healing.
Guilt is painful, and it calls for some serious courage to look honestly at our own sin. We have to see - really see - our sinfulness in order to receive God’s grace. We must turn our faces full into the blinding light of God’s perfection, even though it makes us want to run for cover. In that brightness, we can see the love on God’s face and his desire to restore us to himself.
Lent offers us a time to come face to face with our own weaknesses, to look honestly at real, true guilt. When we see our sin as it really is, we can ask God for forgiveness, and then we are open to the light of his healing.
If you’re feeling guilty, ask yourself if it’s the real deal. Bring it out into the light, and ask God to forgive you. Move past the guilt and live in restoration today.