If you, O Lord, should mark iniquities,
Lord, who could stand?
But there is forgiveness with you,
so that you may be revered.
Psalm 130 (excerpt)
In fourth grade, I was sent to the principal’s office for shooting a spit-wad at a substitute teacher. Never before had I even thought of, let alone attempted, such an act. Typically, I was a rule toting and obeying student with an extremely disciplined attitude and respect for authority. The weight of the guilt of even sitting outside of the principal’s office and having former teacher’s pass me in the hall was an overwhelming burden. As soon as I got off the bus, I went right inside my bedroom and spent the entire evening alone wallowing in my own self-contempt and castigation.
Guilt is an overwhelming experience. As humans, we have a unique quality for indicting the inner recesses of our souls to feel absolutely worthless. We, and others, can heap shame on ourselves as we come face to face with our own deviance and depravity.
The Psalmist shouts, “Out of the depths I cry to you!” Indeed, our experience of guilt and shame feels exactly like the raging waters of the chaotic sea swarming about—not knowing which way is up, desperate to breathe the fresh air that will bring life back to our feeble bodies.
Unlike our own egos that assault us with self-punishment, God stands ready to acquit, to free, and to declare forgiveness. Rather than the bombardments of the ever anxious and frustrated mind, our souls long for God. The soul waits expectantly and the heart clings to hope that God will bring steadfast love and powerful redemption.
God of forgiveness and mercy, free us from the shame we heap upon ourselves. Loosen the tight grip that our guilt-ridden egos hold on our souls. In the midst of the swarm of the sea depths, remind us that you hear our cries. Thank you for bringing us out of our dark nights into the hope-filled grace of morning. Amen.
Justin Spurlock is a Senior M.Div. student and serves as the Family Life Ministries Coordinator at Christ United Methodist Church in Deerfield, Illinois.]]>