Friday, May 31, 2013

Of Guilt and Grace

I recently heard a comedian remark that people enjoy feeling guilty as they indulge in things they shouldn’t.  After the past year, I can say with confidence that anyone who says they enjoy the aura of guilt resting on them has no idea what it truly means to feel that weight on their shoulders.
                Guilt is not a relative emotion that dissolves when the person you’ve harmed has left the room. It is not a social construct or an invention of religion.  It is a burden that is almost beyond articulating, and it crushes many who cannot withstand it’s weight.
I have stared up at the blackness of a sunless morning, feeling truly condemned before the cosmos itself.  All alone, with only the quiet Earth, I have experienced the clutching coldness of guilt choking the life out of my lungs.   At times, I have been so encumbered by the gravity of my sins that I felt I could just lay on the cold earth until I became one with the soil.
This is the unshakable nature of judgment and condemnation.  In the past year, I have written so many songs about my experiences, and I must conclude that the central themes in these songs are guilt and graceI can no longer write ideological worship anthems that ignore the sting of my errors. Instead, I use my faults to frame my need for Christ’s redemption.
One of the first songs I wrote had a chorus which stated this:   “No man can grasp salvation / until he is horrified / by the work of his hands.”  A friend of mine shared this on facebook and received some negative feedback from someone else. The critic was quick to point out that “this is not at all what the cross was all about”.   I just shrugged it off. Perhaps he doesn’t understand the underlying emotion which drives this chorus. One day, he will
Every man faces a day when guilt transforms from an abstract concept to a soul-crippling infection.   I have met so many christians who say “I thought I was a christian before, and then I (fill in the blank with traumatic experience or big mistake) and now I look back and wonder if I was even a believer back then.”   Why does this happen so much?  Because we are blind to the depth of our need for grace in the beginning.  If anything, our belief is an intellectual exercise based on secondhand information.
As I raise my children, I wonder how I can help them grasp the universal, outrageous need for grace without subjecting them to their own potentially life-ruining mistakes in order to discover it.  But alas, that’s for another entry.
I suppose that through all this musing, the bottom line is this:   understanding our need for grace is a vital part of accepting it fully.  It’s easy to toss the word “sin” around like it means practically nothing at all, but when we actually face the toxic nature of it, we cling to the cross with great fervor.  I pray that this newfound need would also drive me to share Christ’s redemption with others. 
After all, the biggest difference in the “old christian vs. new Christian” issue I mentioned above is a problem of perspective.  We need healing regardless, but only when we come to our knees in repentance do we become familiar with that need.


  1. 'No man can grasp salvation until he is horrified by the work of his hands...every man faces a day when guilt transforms from an abstract
    concept to a soul-crippling infection. '

    I totally agree with that. Having grown
    up in a Christian home and all along
    been a 'good Christian kid' who never
    questioned what I was taught, this is
    what made the difference to me in my
    conversion---having my eyes opened
    to my sin and need of Christ, being torn by genuine 'soul-crippling' guilt, not
    a mere intellectual and emotionless admission that I was a sinner. Without guilt, without a gripping personal sense of your terrible need for Christ, we could not truly appreciate His sacrifice or love Him. It is what transformed my relationship with Christ and made Him suddenly more real and personal than I had ever known He could be. 'He who was forgiven much loves much'; I think in my case, at least, it's more accurately' he who realizes how much he has been forgiven.'
    Thank God for His mercies. And thank you for your honesty and humility... it has been very encouraging to read you and your wife sharing about your own experience of guilt and grace.

  2. Thanks for your words, I appreciate what you share!