We Are Not Defined by Guilt

This past weekend, I attended a retreat to complete three years of training in the ministry of spiritual direction. For this week’s entries on Still Forming, I’ll be posting reflections gleaned from the retreat that made me think of you and this space throughout the weekend.

Today I am writing the post that first inspired me to create this week-long series of retreat reflections for you in the first place.

It has to with guilt.

On the first night of the retreat, I was weighed down with feelings of guilt in a big way. Earlier in the week I had received an invoice that informed me I was not paid up on my Audire account like I thought I was. I had a large balance I was unprepared to pay that weekend.

Although grace was offered in the payment schedule, I arrived at the retreat feeling a bit unworthy to be there. After all, I hadn’t yet covered my expenses.

I walked around with a bit of a hang-dog feel.

I also realized about halfway through the first night’s session that I’d forgotten to bring my assignments for the weekend with me. I’d left them at home. I had to leave the retreat campus that evening in order to go home and retrieve the papers.

On my drive home that night, the hang-dog feel was in full force. Guilt was my very-present companion.

But sitting at a stop light on that drive home, I had a revelation.

I realized how much my feeling of worthiness in that moment was dependent on what other people thought. In effect, they held the validity of my worthiness in their hands.

The funny thing is, they didn’t even know this was the case.

In actuality, they likely hadn’t given me and my supposed shortcomings a second thought. And they most definitely weren’t walking around the retreat center stewing over what I did or didn’t do!

Sitting there at the stop light, I turned my thoughts to God. When God looked down upon me and these supposed shortcomings, what did he see?

I saw nothing but grace and understanding on God’s eyes.

When he looked at the circumstances of my unpaid bill, he knew it would take some time for me to pay it off. That didn’t stop him from welcoming me into the retreat to spend time with him and discover what he had prepared for me to discover. And when he saw my forgotten papers waiting there at home for me, he knew why I had forgotten them. He saw the circumstances surrounding it.

And it was all okay. Really okay.

I was reminded in that moment of that passage in Romans 8 that says there is no condemnation — absolutely none — for those who are in Christ Jesus. There is only full acceptance, love, and grace.

Do you struggle with guilt, too? Are you able to see that guilt as a way of placing your worth in the hands of others? Are you able in this moment to place yourself instead in the hands of God?