This is the thorn in my side: I feel guilty about everything. It’s ingrained in me like my compulsive desire to rearrange furniture or my fierce love of good books. As far back as I can remember I’ve felt guilty about something. I probably came out of the womb feeling guilty for the pain and inconvenience it caused Mom.
I *think* I’ve made my peace with this annoying characteristic. I’ve learned to say, “It is what it is.” Or, “This, too, shall pass.” But now and again, my guilt flairs up and I find myself in that all-too-familiar place of pondering why it is that I always feel so guilty. For example, last week I had a difference of opinion with a friend. No big deal, right? After all, opinions are subjective. Quite often, it’s merely personal preference and how can one possibly feel guilty about that? Good question, and one I ask myself all the time.
But this time was different. Because in the midst of all my soul searching, I realized a startling truth. While I feel ridiculous amounts of guilt over trivial things, I feel almost no guilt when it comes to my sin. And if there’s one area of life where guilt is the appropriate reaction, this is it. I found myself pondering a different “why”. Why don’t I feel more guilty about my sin? I walk around, blind to its seriousness and ignorant of the price tag on my debt to God. Only if my eyes were fully opened to the ugliness and filth of my sin would I truly understand the meaning of guilt.
It saddens me greatly that I can expend so much energy feeling guilty about things that don’t matter, while not feeling much of anything over the price Jesus paid to redeem me. I understand well the hymn writer’s words: “Weak is the effort of my heart, and cold my warmest thought…” It’s not enough that I fail in doing what God expects of me, I don’t even comprehend just how absolute my failure is.
But (Oh, that wonderful word), Jesus forgives me this as well. He absolves me of all my guilt, even the guilt I should feel and don’t. My beautiful Savior hears my every prayer and forgives my every sin. I am not worthy such great love, and yet it is mine. No strings attached, and 100% guilt free.
Dear name! The Rock on which I build,
My Shield and Hiding place;
My never-failing Treasury, filled
With boundless stores of grace.
Weak is the effort of my heart
And cold my warmest thought;
But when I see You as You are,
I’ll praise You as I ought.
(The Lutheran Hymnal, Hymn 364)