Guilt as Gift

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Cookies in a PanThese days my thoughts keep drifting towards Christmas Day.  How the day will look, who will come and how to spend the day?   Plans about food are the most consuming.    I am part of a cookie share this year, so that will be fun.   I look forward to the walk to Mass on Christmas Day.  I live on a tree lined street, with several other Catholic families.   So as we walk in the snow to Church, families ahead of mine and families behind – it brings a quietness of comfort and joy to me, a homely connection to the family of God. 

As my mind is becoming filled with all the imaginings and the planning for the big day, I recognize that I need to prepare my heart as well.

I hear that life is a journey – well my journey this year has been a tough one.  As I prepare for the season, thoughts about unpacking some of the events of the last year keep sneaking in.  As I think about the children’s grandmother dying, I can release the feelings of sadness and grief.  I add my thankfulness for her life to my prayers.  Her life was long and she learned that you can’t do everything for your children, including looking after their spiritual life.  She loved us, she prayed for us.

I have also learned that same lesson and have great compassion for my children as they journey through their choices in life.   I am glad to be able to participate in their life and pray for them, accompany them, be kind to them. They are loved.

As I unpack further, I am grateful for the love of family and friends that I once had.  I look now to the family that I have made, my friends, book club, bible study group.  I am blessed that we can share our faith with one another – even while we struggle with some idea or path that God is presenting to us as family.    I am reticent to overshare my faith with my family – it is not always well received.  Sometimes though, I just have to show and speak of my love of God to others.   It is a kindness to myself, as well as to others. 

As I continue to ponder over the past year, I begin to feel a lightness, a loosening away of sadness from my frame and heart. God is giving me renewed strength to see the beauty of life, to take a wider stance, in a more open, wider, higher space.

As I journey, one of the many things I talk to God about, is guarding my tongue.  Either I say too much, or the opposite, keeping quiet when some wisdom would be helpful.  At this time of year, when there are many stressors around, I often ask God for help to guard my tongue.  And if I don’t, then there is guilt.  

Typically, I go through the anatomy of my guilt: realization that I said something I shouldn’t have (the Holy Spirit is drawing it to my attention, perhaps for the 2nd time), mortification that I would have said that!  There may be fear of others calling me on my comments, rehearsal of what could have been said differently (perhaps to my benefit), and whether or not I need to apologize, to forgive myself or others.  Then comes my accepting responsibility for my conversation, and taking it to Jesus and confessing it. I would say to apologize, but sometimes, that just doesn’t happen.  I finally let go of it all and praise God for forgiving me.  Sometimes these actions take a while.  All of this could take exactly one moment, if only I would humble myself, ask God’s forgiveness and be at rest. (Is this a practice makes perfect scenario?) 

I tend to look on guilt as a gift.  A gift, knowing that the Holy Spirit is there, guiding me, helping me to surrender (quickly please) to God’s way of doing things.  It is a gift to know that I am not perfect, that I don’t have all the answers, and I can trust God with all of it.  I am grateful: In times of quiet or rest that the Holy Spirit comes to me (This sounds like a Beatles tune.  I look at guilt as fine tuning.)

One of my beliefs in life is that many things are habit.  Behaviors can be changed – with practice. Take one habit you have made and make the choice to change it -  ie choose to forgive others quickly, then, treat them like they’re forgiven (practice this – practice does makes perfect)  or is it (Do, or do not. There is no try. Yoda)

Advent activities:            

  •  Spend time saying scripture out loud, Faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the Word of God, Romans 10:17
  • Pray daily, at the same time, in the same place, Put on the whole amour of God, Ephesians 6: 10 -18
  • Check out the Holy Childhood Association website (Pontifical Mission Societies)  http://www.missionsocieties.ca/educational-materials/
  • Make plans to care for someone who loves you, arrange a special lunch for them
  • Journaling can help you unpack the events of the last year. It also helps to see the progress made in a particular behavior or situation.
  • Be grateful for the many people faith can be shared with
  • Read a book, to comfort and inspire you – No One Hears but Him, by Taylor Caldwell