Saturday, June 7, 2008

Drowning in Guilt

(When introducing my last post, I mentioned that there were two stories I needed to tell before continuing my final segments about PPD. Here is story number 2. I'm not sure what is going on with Blogger today, but the fonts in this post publish funky and I'm not sure why?)


Guilt. It is invisible, yet weighs heavier than a stack of cinder blocks. And when placed on a soul, it can immobilize body and mind. Have you felt this weight? Do you carry it today? Those of you who are not new to my writings know that I once believed many lies. One of those lies was that carrying around the cumbersome baggage of guilt was a consequence for my mistakes. Ever hear the phrase, “you made your bed, now you have to lie in it?” Yeah, I bought that one too.


There is truth in the fact that we do face consequences for our mistakes and that we may even be reminded of those consequences often, if not daily. However, if we accept the freedom that is offered through Christ, there is no condemnation. We’re forgiven. Christ remade that bed. Choosing to live with guilt is the same as living a lie.


And to reiterate, I lived that lie for years. Much, much longer than I lived in the truth. I’ve harbored guilt about things I did, things I didn’t do, and things I could have and possibly should have done. I first collected those trash bags of guilt as a young lady. But the most repugnant, heaviest bags I picked up came after I became a mother. The guilt started with my miscarriage and continued with both of my children. I foolishly viewed myself as the only one responsible for their well-being. I feared that any mistake I made could mess them up for life. I didn’t only collect those trash bags, I decorated with them. I allowed them to define me.


And while I felt guilt about over many mistakes, there was one mistake, one fleeting moment that nearly destroyed our family as we knew it.


Pumpkindoodle was two-years-old and I invited my good friend Kim* and her three kids to swim with us. A very cautious Pumpkindoodle was satisfied sitting on the gradual steps that doubled as the pool entrance. I stayed close by her. Kim’s youngest child, Danielle*, sat with me and Pumpkindoodle, while Kim took her four-year-old boy to the deep end. Danielle, a precocious daredevil, took that opportunity to explore. She jumped up and darted around the side of the pool, ignoring our warnings. When she decided to reach for a leaf that was floating in eight-feet of water, I sprang into action. I told Pumpkindoodle to stay still and I started to swim toward Danielle. I knew that with a four-year-old attached to her, Kim would have trouble getting to her daughter in time. My girl, never before moved from the steps, even with my coaching, so I felt confident she would be safe.


I reached Danielle in time and as I did, I heard a sputtering sound. I turned around and saw my baby girl face down in the water. I’m not a strong swimmer and I although I was moving as fast as I could, I felt like I wouldn’t reach her in time. I screamed and another lady dove in and saved my Pumpkindoodle, who quickly expunged the water from her lungs.


Sobbing, I held my toddler tight and whispered, “I’m sorry,” over and over again. I felt as though I was the one struggling for breath as a million thoughts swirled through my mind. “You should have got out of the water, you’re faster on land.” “Why did you endanger your child’s life?” You should have put your daughter on a lawn chair and then ran to save Danielle.” “You are so stupid, so careless, you don’t deserve this child.”


Within minutes, Pumpkindoodle recovered untraumatized, and we went back to the pool, just the two of us, the next day. I smiled, played with her and laughed as if nothing happened, but in my mind I saw two little girls… one in my arms wearing her pretty princess swimsuit and one, wearing a bright pink Dora suit, floating face down in the water, splashing helplessly. The image tattooed itself on my brain with the words “her mommy is a failure.” I couldn’t sleep at nights. The incident invaded my dreams.


The Professor tried to rescue me from my pit of self-loathing and guilt, “Stop thinking about the ‘what ifs’. You had a split-second decision to make and you went to the aid of the child you thought was in the greatest danger. If you hadn’t have reacted, maybe Danielle would have ended up in the water, maybe she would have died. You need to forgive yourself.”



He was right, but I still couldn’t get past the pain, the regret. In fact, it took me nearly two years to forgive myself. What a waste of time! Two years. Christ forgave me instantly. In fact, my husband may be correct in that there was nothing to forgive. I’m not sure. But who am I to chain what Christ had freed? He died for each and every one of my sins. Not forgiving myself is like telling precious Jesus, “I’m sorry, your blood was not enough.”

Please know, that His blood is more than enough. That there is nothing, I mean absolutely nothing that you have done or will do that will take more than the blood of Christ to cleanse. Forgiveness is yours. Toss out that guilty baggage. It stinks and it will just weigh you down and hold you from your purpose. Oh how that delights our enemy. And how it pierces the heart of our Savior.

Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. Romans 8:1 (NIV)

The Message Version is also too beautiful not to post.

With the arrival of Jesus, the Messiah, that fateful dilemma is resolved. Those who enter into Christ's being-here-for-us no longer have to live under a continuous, low-lying black cloud. A new power is in operation. The Spirit of life in Christ, like a strong wind, has magnificently cleared the air, freeing you from a fated lifetime of brutal tyranny at the hands of sin and death. Romans 8:1-2 – The Message

(This was one of the most difficult stories I’ve ever written. * The names in this story have been changed. I haven’t even shared it with my family members other than my husband. But I write it today because the beauty of letting go of that guilt outshines the ugly memory. The beauty of knowing God rescued my daughter is greater than the shame of my mistake. In a few more weeks, I am going to share how this mutilated memory shaped itself into a part of my Postpartum mood disorder. Blessings to you, and thank you for reading. I count it a privilege to share my heart and journey with all of you.)





30 comments:

Angie said...

Wow. Thanks for your vulnerability in sharing that. I'm sure it was very difficult to write it all out, and yet you're absolutely right - His blood IS enough and to live a day thinking otherwise is a waste! I have guilt over mothering issues daily (especially lately) and really needed to read your words this morning. Thank you!

Amy said...

I have had similar thoughts - I lost our daughter in the mountains a few summers ago, where adults get lost hiking and die every year. She was missing for about 10 minutes - it felt like an eternity. I had that same guilt, the what-if. Thankfully I was able to forgive myself, knowing that I was the only one holding myself back. His grace is all that we need, and it is free for the taking! Thank you for sharing =)

Darla said...

Oh gosh, this hits home in so many ways. MANY MANY times I have said about a decision that I made. Recently I started praying DAILY for a "mulligan" (gold term for a do over). I came to the conclusion, as you, that I already have been giving a mulligan. Now I need to walk in it.

Thanks for the reminder. I seem to pick up my junk from the alter and carry it with me as a "reminder" of what a failure I am - and THAT is a lie from the devil.

HUGE HUGS.

Darla said...

oops that should be GOLF term.

Pam said...

Wow. I can only imagine how 'naked' you must feel in sharing that. I carry mommy guilt around with me. From simple things like forgetting to put the gate across the steps today and the baby climbed up the steps while I cleaned the lunch dishes (he didn't fall, he was fine, but I still mentally abused myself for it) to being a working mommy and everything in between. I never thought of it all in these terms and that I must forgive myself. I have been thinking that if I carry it with me then I am paying my dues for the mistake and possibly keeping it from happening ever again. This was a new perspective for me on it all- thank you!

Corinne said...

It's so hard to write about those things - thanks for doing that. I have similar experiences (yes, very hard to talk about) where I have needed to let Christ into my heart and heal me from the inside out. That's the only way I've been able to let that guilt go :)

Mrs. N. said...

I'm not sure why, but it still amazes me that so many can relate to my experiences and I know that is why God is calling me to be vulnerable and it truly is a calling. Every time I write I hear Him whisper, you can share this, I will protect you. And there are times too when I think He gives me permission to not share it all. He knows what other's need. He knows what I need.

I also had to learn the difference between learning from my mistakes and remembering them as just memories as opposed to harboring guilt and allowing those mistakes a front seat in my life. I think we are to remember for sure, remembering should also be healing and not serve as some sort of penance. But some lessons are easier learned than others.

P.S. He loves you... said...

Your testimony is a reminder to myself of HIS greatest act of love which is forgiveness and this does set us free!

Thank you for sharing as I've been blessed!

Tracy said...

Your sobering vulnerability touches my heart deeply and challenges me today.

"the beauty of letting go of that guilt outshines the ugly memory. The beauty of knowing God rescued my daughter is greater than the shame of my mistake."

So glad you have now embraced the freedom from guilt that is Christ! He truly is more than enough. Satan choses to attack in this area because our children reveal in us the tendermost places of our hearts. Praise God for the indescribable gifts of forgiveness and freedom!

Alana said...

Thank God for the ability to be free from guilt!

And just for the record, I don't see that you did anything wrong. My instinct as a Mommy would have been to go help the little girl as well. I'm sure her Mommy was grateful that you were there!

Misty said...

the amazing thing is that the Enemy will fool us into believing all his lies about all our supposed mis-doings. i have believed too many of them in my life as well, and probably still struggle with this more than i care to admit. as always, thank you for your vulnerability.

Genny said...

What a powerful story. I'm sure your testimony and honesty will touch many people. What a painful memory, but what a beautiful ending. And what powerful healing. Thanks so much for sharing, and for the reminder not to carry guilt around!

Karen said...

You have a beautiful blog. This post hit so many chords for me! Thank you for writing it! I'll be back to poke around some more. Thanks for coming by and introducing yourself:)

GrandCanyonMom said...

Thank you for sharing this incredibly personal story. God is breaking the chains of shame, I can tell just by the fact that you're sharing this private story. I agree that what you did wasn't a sin that required forgiveness. It was a quick judgement call based on Pumpindoodle's typical behavior.
Thank you for the great reminder to throw away those trash bags of guilt and shame. So, so true!

graceunbound said...

Once again you hit close to home. I lug those garbage bags of guilt around every day. "If only I had done this differently; if only I had made that choice; if only, if only." No one but God knows what would have been on the opposite side of those 'if only's'; he gives us the grace for what was and what is.

I think the guilt leads to living life in fear and anxiety, fear that I'll make another wrong choice, fear that I don't deserve what I've been given, anxiety that it will all be taken away because I don't deserve it. It cheapens his sacrifice to think he can't cover my mistakes and my guilt.

Natalie Witcher said...

Guilt. What a horrible ploy of the enemy! I'm so glad Jesus rescues us!

(oh, and yes, you have visted my blog before. I recently got a makeover;)

Fr. Peter Doodes said...

I am 100% certain your husband is right, there was nothing to forgive, being human is not a sin.

The only common factor between sin and a possible, note that word *possible* error of judgement is the feeling of guilt after.

Please do not think that all 'guilt' emotions are the result of sin.

There is no 'shame' in being a loving, caring, kind and human, human being.

Anne Elizabeth said...

I am sobbing as I read this. I can't even put into words how what you wrote touched me. I have the thought the very things you said, when I make mistakes with my kids. How even when I give it over to God I can't seem to let go of the guilt.

We are THAT Family said...

I think many mothers will relate to your post. Guilt is such a driving force and one of Satan's greatest tools on Moms. He knows where we are weak. And in our struggle to be perfect moms, we are imperfect.

Thank you for sharing this. It touched me.

Julie said...

Dear Friend,
I turned my back for a few seconds once at the pool and my daughter was in the water. It really shook me up. None of my children before her had jumped into the water....yet she was my adventurous one. It's such a scary thing. The enemy plays on those things. He wants nothing more than to shut us down and keep us from displaying the story of God in our lives. I can see that you must be dangerous for the kingdom of God as the enemy has tried to take you out. You are a wonderful mom.... You did what any mom would do given the moment and the urgency of the situation.

Forgiving ourselves are usually the hardest. Often we don't see that we need forgiving....we think we deserve the thoughts we are thinking.

What I see is God's relentless pursuit of you and your heart. He loves you so.

Hugs,
Julie

a Tonggu Momma said...

Thank you so much for your vulnerability. And, in turn, less than a month after adopting our Tongginator, I accidentally dropped her while walking down the stairs. It was an accident, but, oh, the guilt. Only Christ can really set you free from all of that second-guessing and self-hate talk.

Brenna said...

I, too, am a Christian mom who survived PPD. My daughter just turned five, and I'm still amazed that I got through it (only with God's strength and mercy). Medication was very helpful. This is something that needs to be talked about more.

Jamie said...

Thanks so much for your willingness to share. As a mom, I struggle with this. I so desperately want to be the perfect mom for my kids, but I often fall short and then I allow guilt to consume me. I am thakful that God is more than enough for me. Thanks for the reminder!

Tonya said...

Your honesty was very real to me. I think we moms beat ourselves up all the time with stuff like this at least I know I do. My hubby is always telling me to let it go. Thanks for sharing.

Jackie @ Our Moments Our Memories said...

No condemnation. And thank you Jesus for that!

Gretchen said...

This story is gripping and I'm sure will touch many hearts. I know mine is full for what you went through. Thank you for sharing that others may find peace.

xxxooogretchen

Lisa @ Stop and Smell the Chocolates said...

Thanks for sharing such a personal story. Many moms have those same struggles.

So wonderful that we have Christ, who already paid the price for our sins with His blood. We are forgiven!

Wifey said...

Wow. I'm so glad that you let go of that burden. I completely understand. We just want to keep our precious babies safe, but we have to remember we are only human; and really put our faith and trust in God. Smiles!

Angela said...

Wow, it is so awesome that he can forgive and forget all the things that we have such a hard time forgiving ourselves for. THis story brought tears to my eyes.

it's me, Val said...

You are so big to have shared this. Thank you so much for sharing it. So much.

God bless you!

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