Guilt & Grace


Naptime is often an entertaining event in the Gary household. Today, I was on the receiving end of a barrage of accusations from our soon-to-be three year old Monica Jr. (I’m sure naming her after me has something to do with the hardheadedness, but she’s a strong leader already, so I’ll take it!)

As I watched her fading quickly into behaviors only present during exhaustion, I scooped Monica up and walked briskly toward the steps. If I time this exactly right, I can get all the way upstairs before she wriggles out of my arms, screaming and leaving me holding her by one arm and the opposite leg. We usually arrive at her bed before she drops completely out of my grasp.

Once in the bed, she refused to lie down. Her problem solving kicked into high gear and she began to apologize. “I’m sorry mom.” I told her she hadn’t done anything wrong, that she was wrong for throwing the fit but that naptime was not a punishment. It was just time for a nap. She continued to apologize in an attempt to negotiate her release from toddler prison. I explained once more that naptime was not connected to her being guilty of anything.

She then looked up at me and said “You’re not being a good mother.”

Now it’s my fault. Something feels wrong to her and if it isn’t her fault it must be someone’s, so … mom did it. Her discomfort became the launching pad for accusing, not only herself, but also me. Calmly (as I should probably do more often), I went on to explain that I am actually being a good mother because I am making sure she has what she needs and I am being peaceful about it. The final solution she conjured up was to appeal to me out of a place of desperation; to invoke some pity out of me for her uncomfortable situation. A final attempt at control. “Why are you making me go to bed for a thousand years?!”

At this point, I began laughing to myself. I love when my kids give me gold like this. This is so us in our relationship with God! Let me break it down…

  1. We like to be wrong.

The human affinity for carrying guilt, even fictitious guilt, stems from a desire to control. If we have done something wrong, then we conclude that we can be the ones to make it right. Some people walk around continuously apologizing for everything. You probably know these people, or you are one of them (and I’m about to upset you big time). Since I have been this person in the past and I can confidently say the following: I liked being wrong because it meant I could apologize and make things right again. There was a solution that I had some control over. 

  1. If we are not wrong, then God must be bad.

Oh, I didn’t do anything wrong and I have to suffer? God must be a terrible person to let me go through this! How dare He?! Who does He think He is anyway… God?! It couldn’t possibly be that sometimes life is just sucky and we have to go through it. Sometimes the tire goes flat. Sometimes our spouse just can’t seem to stay sober. Sometimes a loved one dies because a broken person decided to shoot up a crowd in Vegas… NONE of this means that God is unloving. It means that the world is.

  1. If we are not wrong, and God is not bad, then we exaggerate our pain.

I have been so guilty of this over the years. If there is no solution in sight, I have tended toward magnifying my pain so God will feel sympathy for me and fix it quicker. By quicker I mean immediately. The 1 hour nap becomes a thousand years just as one day of frustration with my husband becomes the rest of my life!

The only problem is that I have since read my Bible a little more carefully and come to the conclusion that NOTHING I ENDURE IS AS HARD OR AS LONG AS I THINK. If God lets me go through it, whatever “it” is, He will be there by my side. EVERYTHING of this world is temporary… and sin and pain are of this world. My job is to keep my eyes on Him so that, when I come out on the other side of the struggle, I look more like Him.

  1. We really, REALLY like to be wrong.

Even after all of the explaining to my daughter, she still defaulted back to “I’m sorry.” I stopped responding because it became so ridiculous. When I didn’t answer her, she started telling her stuffed animals “I’m sorry”. This little window into the human mind today told me I need to reaffirm a few things for you all (and myself):

Pain is supposed to be uncomfortable, God is still good, and we need to stop trying to take credit for something God has already done.

Yes, we are guilty. The human race does unspeakable things. Every. Single. Day. Whether you stole a candy bar or molested a child, there is forgiveness for you. That is why God came here and died on the cross as Christ. If He desired only to pay for the sins of the candy bar thief, He might have let a hand be cut off… but that’s not what He did. Jesus DIED… all the way… then hung out in the grave for three days (so you can be sure He actually died), rose again to declare His victory, and gave us access to that same victory. Stop clinging to your guilt like you’re going to be able to pay for what you did. You can’t. You don’t even know everything you’ve done in sin! That’s why Jesus said, “Forgive them, Father, they know not what they do.”

And since you don’t own the guilt, you don’t own the glory.

Lastly, we Christians need to stop expecting people to pay for their own sins. We focus way too much on the brokenness of the person than on showing them the Solution, who is Jesus.

Did it feel uncomfortable to read that God forgives even a child molester?

Then you might be who I am talking to right now. And, by the way, He does when they repent. Stop asking the world to pay for their sins as if your rules are a prerequisite to knowing the Lord. Jesus is known BY grace. HIS grace. That means you don’t get to choose who gets it. Putting our expectations on a person as a way to salvation, when God has not done so, is borderline blaspheme. Unless you’re going to commit to acting like Jesus, quit claiming Him so openly while casting your legalistic opinions on people who just need to know Love through you.

This world is painful and uncomfortable. We are meant to endure it together. All of us. Not one of us is an accident and we all need each other. I could go on just doing me and growing to be more like Christ without writing to you all… or could I? Could I actually need you guys to come alongside me so that we can be ONE body in Christ? Could it be that your sins make me so upset because I know that we are part of each other and I am affected whether I like it or not?

I think so. Work with me here, then. Take a step today, even a baby step, to be more graceful to yourself and those around you. And if you don’t know where that Grace will come from, re-read this article a few times.

May grace define your life today.


Your sister,


1 Comment

  1. Guilt is a trap. God’s free grace and love is freedom. If we have to earn blessings all his suffering is for nothing. From the fullness of his mercy grace and love, we have all received forgiveness , new life and blessings

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