The topic is guilt. This is part of my therapy homework – to help me work on my issue with guilt, Jo told me that the next time I was doing the Shabbat sermon, I should talk about guilt. Thank you for being here and for listening! Well, I’ve been praying all week about what to share, and I believe that tonight, God wants me to tell the stories of my own struggles with guilt, and His answers to my guilt. Exactly how God wants to minister to all of you through my sharing my stories, I don’t know, but may there be a deep blessing to all of you as I share, and may all of us together come to know the wonder of His love more and more clearly.
Guilt. Guilty. What comes to mind when you hear these words? When you think of a guilty person. For me, “guilty” brings a deep sense of shame and self-condemnation. To me, “guilty” doesn’t just mean that I’ve done something wrong – it means that I AM something wrong. I am guilty. There was some good I should have done, but I didn’t. There was some bad I shouldn’t have done, but I did. I should have done better, I should be someone better. This toxic sense of guilt hangs over me. I can’t separate guilt for the bad things I’ve done, from the “guilt” for not being the kind of person that I want to be. It’s all messed up to me. I judge myself as unworthy and guilty, even though, as we all know that God does not treat us this way. Our own pride and backgrounds make us treat ourselves this way.
How has this affected me? Greatly. God has helped me to understand over my past two years of healing here at Care, that how much I am very, very driven by guilt. I do many good and kind things here, I’ve done many good and kind things in the past, things that look on the surface like I’m motivated by love and compassion, but deep inside, I’ve got all this guilt driving me all mixed in. Like for instance, when I was a child, I did all I could to save and protect the other children around me, often at great cost to myself. I did love these children, but I was also driven by the guilt of not having saved others. A more recent example, I often choose to be kind rather than cutting when people irritate or anger me – it looks like I’m choosing to be gracious or to be the bigger brain, but often, really, it’s my guilt underneath. My soul whispers inside, “Over my life as a member of the cult, I’ve hurt so many people – now that I am free, how could I hurt another person?” Another recent example, I want to be a therapist now and help people heal from traumas and to understand how to overcome programming – this is really my calling from God I know, but underneath, there is still some of that guilt – I was a programmer and I want this to be my restitution.
In short – I’m still trying to pay for my sin against others, to make up for it by doing good now. It’s ok to do good. Restitution is a Biblical principle, and a sign of repentance is a new lifestyle of obedience to God and loving others. But penance is not. As long as I’m still condemning myself, seeing myself as guilty and trying to pay for it, I’ll always be controlled by my pain and shame. And the enemy loves guilt. He uses guilt all the time – you all know that. And you all also know, if we try to pay for our own sin and make up for it, then we are showing contempt for what Jesus has done to free us from guilt, and to live a new lifestyle joyfully, though his power, through His renewal, and not because we are trying to cover our guilt. To hold on to guilt and be driven by guilt, is basically to refuse grace and the joy and lightness of forgiveness, as well as the joy and lightness of seeing ourselves as God sees us.
Now, we all here have been Christians for years. We’ve done Torah studies, Beth More studies, Priscilla Shirer, and been to studies in other churches. We read the Bible and attend feasts. We all know in our heads, that Jesus’s atonement on the cross is the answer to the guilt of our sin, and his love and acceptance is the answer to the guilt and shame of not being good enough. He is judge and now judges as us holy. We know that, heard it a hundred times, heard it last week when Sheri preached on guilt so I’m not going to preach on this itself.
Instead, I’m going to talk about how joy has changed my struggle with guilt, and how joy has been helping me to start to experience – not just know in my head but actually feel it deep in my soul – that I am forgiven and accepted, that I can stop being “guilty”. Joy has made the difference to moving “I’m not guilty, I’m forgiven” from my head to my heart.
To quote the Life Model material, joy means that someone is glad to be with me. It means that I am the sparkle in someone’s eye. I have been experiencing joy with Jo. In sessions, I have told her some of the most horrendous things I have done and been. After the telling and praying, she looks at me with joy – I know she is glad to be with me. That has communicated deeply to me heart the meaning of forgiveness. I have asked her, “How could you forgive me?” and she has responded that God forgives me (She’s also said she can’t judge because she’d probably done the same thing in my position). In between sessions at other times, I’ve literally seen her eyes sparkle when she sees me. That’s joy – and that makes the forgiveness for my sin and my failure as a human being, very, very, very real to me. That joy has started to outweigh the guilt.
SW has also communicated joy to me. I’ve hurt her many times in the past – but she lights up around me and is glad to see me. That speaks to me of how forgiven I am. Not just forgiven but cherished. Not guilty. The guilt is over. I don’t have to let the guilt possess me anymore. Noone wants that guilt. God doesn’t, he’s paid the price and forgiven, Sheri doesn’t – she’s been forgiven and has forgiven me – the only person this kind of guilt benefits here is Satan. I can let the guilt go. Her joy over me makes my forgiven rock solid real to me.
Jesus himself has done this for me. The moments that I spend with Him and He communicates his gladness to be with me in tangible ways – it shows me how much I am forgiven and how much He doesn’t want my guilt. Him bringing me back to care after how much I screwed up, providing for me over this 2 years, getting me into school – that’s forgives.
The community has also communicated joy to me in different ways. One of my favorite examples is when I broke glasses at the Riverhouse. Carol was the house leader then. The very, very first thing she said when she learnt about it was not “OMG what have you done?” but “I love you”. That was true joy. It enabled me to see that forgiveness was more real than my shame. Joy enables me to experience the remission of my guilt. I understand my forgives in my heart.
What does this mean for us – the amount of joy we take in one other, our level of gladness to be together, to amplify the good things rather than the negative, to repair and all that – it has a great impact on each other’s healing. When we bring each other joy, when we allow God to download His gladness to be with us into each of us – this joy puts the light to the lie that the enemy tells us about being guilty. It causes our hearts and mind that were trained to keep saying “I’m guilty! I’m guilty!” to start to question this belief – because the people around us aren’t agreeing with our guilt any more. Instead, they are glad to be with us. Even knowing us, knowing the worst, they are glad to be with us and are tender towards our weaknesses. Not guilty.
As a close to my sermon, let me read to you God’s expression of joy to be with us, that speaks of how much our guilt has been removed. Revelation 21:3 “And I heard a loud voice from Heaven saying, “Behold, the tabernacle of God is with men, and He will dwell with them, and they shall be His people. God Himself will be with them and be their God. And God will wipe away every tear from their eyes, there shall be no more death, nor sorrow, nor crying. There shall be no more pain, for the former things have passed away.”
.A Community Member