When you are a mother, guilt is a state of being. I personally am plagued with guilt every time I stop and think about my effectiveness as a mother. There are a thousand things I would do differently if I were to live the years of raising my children over again. I would pray for them more often. Spend more one-on-one time with them. Make them do more chores. The list goes on forever.

A working mother has an extra portion of guilt.  Trying to have a teaching career and raise a family at the same time was definitely a challenge. Sometimes my children got the short end of the stick.

I taught at the Christian school where my children attended. One day my daughter's fourth grade teacher came into the teacher's lounge at lunchtime. She sat down next to me and said, "Julie, I want to share with you what Melanie gave as a prayer request this morning." This couldn't be good. I braced myself for what would surely be humiliating words. Doris continued, "She said: ‘Would you please pray that my Mom would cook us a homemade meal? It's been soooo long.'"

The entire table of faculty members erupted into laughter. As we were mostly comprised of working mothers, everyone understood from personal experience the impossibility of being June Cleaver and a teacher all at once. That particular week, my husband had been gone on a business trip. Therefore, most nights we had stopped at McDonald's on the way home so that I didn't have to face cooking and homework time while solo parenting. I sat up straighter in my chair. "OK," I promised. "Tonight I am going to make a meatloaf, potatoes, and a green bean casserole. Comfort food. My days of being a bad mother are over. At least for this week."

That afternoon, we had a faculty meeting after school. As we were trying to choose a reading curriculum, it was long and involved. We didn't leave the meeting until after 5 PM. I gathered up my papers from my desk and wearily headed down the hall toward the parking lot. On the way out, I stuck my head in Doris' room. "Keep on praying," I told her. "We are going to Wendy's."

Yes, guilt is a burden when you are a mom. It can also be a burden even if you are not blessed with children. Most women I know exist in a state of guilty feelings. We never can do enough or do it well enough.

What does the Bible have to say about guilt? You might be surprised.

Guilt is never referred to as a feeling. In Scripture, guilt is a condition. It is the condition into which we are born. We inherited it from our ancestor, Adam. Romans 5:18 tells us "through one transgression there resulted condemnation to all men." Thanks, Adam. One bite of the forbidden fruit and we were all history.

Of course, thankfully there is a second part to that verse: "Even so, through one act of righteousness there resulted justification of life to all men." Thanks to the sacrifice Jesus made on our behalf, we were given justification from our guilty state. Justification is a legal term, meaning declared innocent. When Jesus suffered and died on the cross, the Heavenly Judge banged the gavel, and those who believed were set free. One man's act condemned us. The other One's act paid our debt in full.

So technically, we are not guilty any more, at least in God's sight. Yet we do often continue carrying the often crushing weight of guilt around on our shoulders.

One of the many benefits to our salvation is the fact the Holy Spirit resides within us as a guarantee of our salvation. He does more than inhabit us. He guides us and teaches us. This includes letting us know when we are in the wrong. Conviction for our sin is a healthy thing. It prompts us to repentance and to make peace with those we have wronged. But once we have confessed the sin, and, if necessary, have gone to those we have offended, it is over. Water under the bridge. Time to move on. Yet still we may hold tight to the guilt, refusing to forgive ourselves.

Satan loves this. The Bible even calls him "The Accuser." He wants to incapacitate us in any way possible. And with many of us, guilt is an extremely effective tool. It makes us focus on ourselves and our frailties, instead of on Christ and His provision for our sin. Guilt can be a paralyzing emotion. We are loathe to repeat the same mistake, so in our shame, we stop trying.

Once we have confessed the sin, we must place the guilt in God's capable hands and walk away. Jesus' shoulders are big enough to bear our guilt. And His sacrifice was big enough to pay the price for that sin.

Be wise enough to see the difference between conviction and guilt. Let the forgiveness that has been so freely given us wash over you. Bask in the grace of God. Because you are free. Even if you eat at Wendy's.  

January 14, 2011

Julie Coleman loves to teach the Word of God! With contagious enthusiasm, she brings hope and encouragement to her audience through rich biblical teaching. Julie uses humor and personal stories to make her teaching entertaining as well as meaningful. Her warm and insightful messages make her an effective and well-received speaker.

During her 20 year teaching career, Julie received professional recognition including being named Anne Arundel County Teacher of the Year. She holds a Master of Arts degree in Biblical Studies from Capital Bible Seminary. Julie and her husband, Steve, have four grown children and make their home in the Annapolis, Maryland area.