The danger of guilt

Guilt is dangerous. It is dangerous for the guilty, but it is even more dangerous for the forgiven.

Guilt is dangerous for the guilty because justice demands punishment. But when mercy and forbearance reign, and injustice is forgiven guilt is an unnecessary and dangerous burden. Where guilt is present there is no peace, there is no rest. Ultimately, there is no hope.

This evening a very small thing turned into a big thing because of my own feelings of guilt.

The example of Jesus calls me to be a servant to my wife1. I believe this, and take it very seriously, but like any person I am not perfect. I fail. I fail a lot, and I know it. Which is where the guilt comes in.

Lindsey loves to keep a clean house. She’s not obsessive about it, she’s not overbearing and she is nowhere close to a nag. She likes the house to be clean, and clearly shares what that entails. But, as documented elsewhere on this blog, I do not have the same natural desire. It’s not that I like or tolerate dirt, I just don’t have the same level of thoroughness and attention to detail  My level of tolerance for disorganization and clutter is higher than hers. That’s not a bad thing, in and of itself. We’re simply wired different.

But here’s the problem, the disorganization that I do not mind causes Lindsey stress. The last thing she needs is added stress. The best thing I can do to serve my wife is to help her out, to clean up and keep the clutter down. I do this, sometimes. But not enough. She does not tell me that often, like I said my wife is certainly not a nag. But I still know that I fail her.

So tonight when I was emptying the overly full recycling bin I made a selfish comment to her about how full it was, and how hard it is to take out like that. “Don’t fill it too full,” I said in a not-too-nice tone of voice. “It’s too hard to take it out, and it’s not like I care about recycling anyway.”

I said it as I passed her in the kitchen, and I immediately knew how hurtful it was. But when she replied back I just dug my heels in and we argued for the next five minutes.

After Lindsey went upstairs (justifiably) upset, I started to think about my comment. I realized where it came from. It was rooted in the guilt I felt for letting her down, for not doing all of the things around the house that I wanted and committed to do. I knew I had failed, and I think that subconsciously I wanted to knock her down a peg.

How sick is that? Instead of dealing with the guilt that I legitimately felt, I tried to drag my wife down with me. I tried to accuse her of doing something wrong to assuage my guilt. Here when I should be confessing my own failings to her I turn it around on her instead.

In this and other ways I do not live up to my own expectations for being a husband, and I fear that I do not live up to Lindsey’s. ‘Don’t be too hard on yourself,’ you might offer, ‘after all you’ve been at this for less than a year.’ That’s true, but that does not change the standard, it only rationalizes the failure. The standard of Jesus, the perfect man, as my standard for leadership is a tall order. In fact, it is an impossible one for any of us to achieve.

In response to this, one might comment that the weight of that standard is crushing, that no man can live up to it. I agree with that point of view, it is a crushing weight to bear.

That is, it is crushing if we have to bear it.

But we do not have to bear it. If we trust God’s promises to us through Jesus, we will be forgiven. The burden will be lifted. If only trusting that was easy all the time. But it is not. Instead of trusting ourselves we must then rely only on God to help us see our sin, and to change our hearts. He is the only source of real change.

After a few minutes of collecting my thoughts, I walked up the stairs and sat down on the bed next to Lindsey. I told her exactly what was going on, almost exactly what I just told you. Then I confessed and apologized. She forgave me, as deep down I knew she would. We had a serious conversation then spent some time in prayer about some things going on these days. It was a sweet time together.

It was a small argument, but it made something clear to me. I cannot let the guilt I feel from my inevitable failings to rule my mind and emotions. To do so is a demonstration of a failing faith in Jesus’s promises. He died to remove my guilt, and he defeated death to bring me life. The only path for me is rest in that truth and trust in his forgiveness. And Lindsey’s.


  1. There are a lot of misconceptions about the Christian view of marriage that I won’t get into here, but let me set this one straight: the role of the husband is to love and lead his wife, and Jesus shows us that this is done through selfless service. Anything else is a perversion of the gospel. 

Eternity

One of the trillion things we’ve learned about God in Women’s Development is his attribute of eternity. God doesn’t exist in time like we know time. He’s past, present, and future all at once.

I hope I’m not alone in saying that this blows my mind. But I guess that it should, as I am completely bound by time. I can’t escape it– it is an intrinsic part of my experience here on earth.

So, when I began studying this eternity attribute, I got really confused. At first, it came across to me as a scary concept. If God doesn’t work in time the way that I do, then why should he care about this small thing that is happening in my life right now? If he can walk in the Garden of Eden, speak at Christ’s baptism, and be worshipped in the New Creation all at once, then why should he be present for me when I have a bad day and feel really sad?

Thank God that I kept studying him.

It’s not that he’s so occupied in doing all of these other things that seem so much more meaningful to me than my silly day. That’s not the reality at all. Rather, God’s eternity means that he’s not entangled by time. He doesn’t get caught up in it as we do. He exists above time. This allows him to be present in every single second of my life.

I’m in awe of this. I cannot comprehend this entirely, but it fills me with such joy to know that my Creator is here with me in everything. I am never alone. There is nothing he does not know or somehow missed because his head was turned. And in meditating on this, I feel so loved. He never leaves my side.

Also in my thinking on time, I’m struck by this: our purpose on this earth is to glorify God. That’s it. That’s why we were created. When I think of how few moments in each day I am actually living out that purpose, I am deeply convicted. God doesn’t just show up when we’re glorifying him, obeying him, or reading his Word– no, our God is there for every second of my selfishness, every minute that I seek the approval of people, and every hour that I waste with distraction. I pray that on the day I sit before him on the judgment seat of Christ, the moments that he sees where I fulfilled my purpose will be so many more than exist to date. 

 

A take over

I know that I posted about this yesterday, but today I got to see it even more clearly than before.

Our missional community group split guys and gals tonight. We did that so that we could be honest about our areas of struggle in a way that we can’t with the mixed group. I was hesitant going into tonight because we haven’t done this really well yet. It just felt like conversation stayed mostly on the surface and that we didn’t trust one another enough. Tonight, the Holy Spirit took over.

Tonight we shared honestly and openly and asked each other hard questions. Tonight we loved and supported one another and prayed over each other. Tonight was real and authentic and beautiful. I’m so grateful for these women. They bring me closer God, which makes me a better wife. I couldn’t wait to get home tonight and tell Brian what God was doing.

It was a great example of why community is essential. We are created to live life with each other. When we have people in our lives who love us, care for us, and fight for us, it helps us to keep our eyes on what is important.

That’s the goal

Last weekend, we went to a marriage conference at church. The speaker, Paul Tripp, a very engaging and intelligent man, said so much of value that I have pages and pages of notes from the two sessions with him. MUCH of what he said has been flashing through my mind this week, but today there was one thing in particular.

Tripp started out by telling us that the “little” moments are important. Those mundane, day to day moments are important because that is what our lives are made up of, “that is the address where you live.” And in those little moments, we cannot allow the actions of our spouses to dictate our own actions, because our words and behavior are more formed by what is inside of us than what is outside of us.

We looked at Luke 6:43-45— about how your words and actions are a result of what is in your heart. All marriage problems have roots in the heart. I have a million great quotes and more Scripture on this, but the gist of it is that I cannot use anything Brian does or says to justify not loving him. No matter what, I have to show him love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control– but ultimately, that is the purpose that God has for me.

I have to put Brian before myself, even though it goes against everything in my selfish, sinful nature. I have to put Brian first, even when I don’t feel good, I’m hungry, and I just want to go home. I have to put Brian first when he snaps at me or upsets me. This is SO contrary to our natures, but that’s because we’re corrupted by sin. But I have to look at Brian through God’s eyes and value the creation, even when that creation is annoying or doesn’t pay attention to me or doesn’t treat me the way I think I deserve to be treated.

So, this is what I’ve been struggling with today. When I perceive Brian to be choosing his iPhone over me, I can’t decide to ignore him. That’s the patience. When he says something about my driving, I can’t start screaming. That’s the peace.

I’m not trying to pick on my husband here, I’m just being honest. I assure you that he has to display MUCH more of these characteristics on a regular basis in this marriage than I. I just happen to be the one writing this post.

If they aren’t familiar to you, those characteristics in paragraph three are called the fruits of the Spirit. They’re the characteristics that grow in you when you’re really focused on God– they’re what He wants for our lives. I need to repeat them to myself ALL the time these days– like a mantra. They’re the goal.

Sweet recollections

Brian and I watched the Kentucky Derby today.

Watching the Derby was a tradition that Brian had with his Grandpa Downey. His grandfather had been a jockey at one point and loved horses. He instilled this love into Brian as he taught him to ride and appreciate these amazing creatures.

Later in life the two of them would watch the Derby together and talk about the horses and the potential outcome. Even after Brian moved to Texas, they would talk on the phone multiple times that day as they watched the coverage that precedes the race. This is a precious memory that Brian holds dear.

In true Derby fashion, the race should be accompanied by a mint julep. But when Brian asked the produce guy if he could look in the back for more mint, he discovered the store was sold out– something about a horse race. Hmm. I suggested he try buying a mint plant at the Home Depot next door, and in true Brian fashion, we came home with our own herb garden and will now be growing our own herbs. That way, when the mint sells out next year on Derby Day, it will not affect the Lundin household 🙂

The actual race wasn’t scheduled until 5pm, but there is all day coverage that leads up to the race. There are touching stories about the horses and their owners and trainers. There are history highlights and interviews. My personal favorite was when they would talk about the hats– and I decided that I need an occasion to wear a ridiculous hat. Pretty excited about that.

As the race approached, I stopped piddling in the kitchen to come sit in the living room with Brian. He made mint juleps for the both of us. I am not a whisky drinker in any shape or form, but I took mine gladly and took tiny sip after tiny sip, trying my best to not made a face after each.

The Derby was a very exciting two minutes. I got into it much more than I had anticipated (I’m sure the emotional stories I watched about the horses had something to do with it). But more than anything, I knew that Brian wanted me there– it was important that I experience this with him.

This day brings back memories of so many of these days for Brian. He loved his Grandpa Downey so very much and often tells me how much he wishes I could have known him. But I feel like I do, in a way. Every time Brian talks about horseback riding, I learn more about Grandpa. Every time he talks about Derby days past, I learn about Grandpa. When he showed me his grandfather’s Bible with all of the notes and cards and pictures stored inside, I learned about Grandpa. With every story and memory, I begin to see Grandpa Downey even more clearly– through Brian’s eyes. And I can’t think of any better way to get to know someone who is gone, than through the sweet recollections of a grandson who loved his grandfather so dearly.

I know that one day I’ll meet Grandpa Downey. We’ll be in heaven praising Jesus together forever. I hope that in the same way that Brian tells me about him, I’ll get to tell Grandpa Downey about the Brian that he wasn’t here for– the Brian who got married and made me the happiest woman in the world, and the Brian who makes mint juleps on Derby Day with the mint in his herb garden. I hope he gets to see Brian through the sweet recollections of the one who loved him dearly.

Radical Grace

The Explicit Gospel by Matt Chandler from Crossway Books

Tonight Lindsey and I got to hear Matt Chandler preach at our church as part of the Explicit Gospel Tour. He has been traveling for the past few weeks promoting his new book and preaching in churches.

I have listened to Matt preach via podcast for the past several years and I was excited to shake his hand and hear him preach. The best part about Matt is how passionate he is about sharing the gospel, and how even on a tour to promote his book his only desire is to preach faithfully.

Tonight, he did just that.

Preaching out of Colossians 1:13-23, Matt laid out the full gospel and its implications for individuals, the local church, the universal church and the world. It was a great sermon, and Lindsey and I were both happy to be there.

Driving home, we talked a lot about the sermon and what we heard new, or fresh, tonight. In light of our tough day yesterday we seemed to both be drawn to the perspective Matt offered on Christ’s forgiveness.

The point he made that hit us both so strongly is that as Christians it is easy for us to see Christ’s forgiveness in our past sins, in the things that we feel regret over. It is harder for us to see his forgiveness in the sin that we are committing right now, or even all the sins we will commit in the future. We really spent some time thinking and talking about this.

In our marriage, if Christ is our model for how we show grace and forgive each other this is a very instructive point. We should always be forgiving, always be wiping the slate clean and saying, “it’s okay, I love you. I forgive you.” And, just like the love and forgiveness of Christ, we should not presume upon it and take advantage of it, but rather respond to that grace with even more love, service and forbearance.

If His grace is my standard, then my wife should know clearly, and I should be showing her, that nothing she could do would place her outside of my forgiveness. So it also follows that if she is using that same standard to motivate her grace, then I should know clearly how much she loves me, how much she will minister to me when I struggle. That kind of radical grace can shape a marriage into what it is supposed to be. And that’s exactly what we want.