With the recent drowning of the 2-yr-old son of former NFL star Randall Cunningham, this incident with my then two-year-old daughter crashed freshly against my heart.
Although the story below is real, I changed the names of the other "characters."
Drowning in Guilt - June 7, 2008
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 undramatized, 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 let this go.”
He was right, but I still couldn’t get past the pain, the regret. In fact, it took me nearly two years to get past the what ifs. 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 accepting His forgiveness for that error in judgment 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