A few weeks ago I woke from this strange dream. If you’re anything like me, you often have strange dreams that might be a bit frightening, or might just be plain odd, or might be just very exhausting, so when you wake up you feel like you’ve been on this epic adventure, climbing mountains, beating up the “bad guys” and saving the world in an apocalyptic type age. You would think I watch crazy movies, but I’m actually very guarded in what I watch- this artist brain can only handle so much! Well, when I woke early in the morning after this one particular dream, I was stunned. The details were hard to make out, but there was one specific moment that was crystal clear. I was a little girl, and there was a man there with me, and he gave me the name Guilt. That’s right- he took it upon himself to name me, and the name rang loud and clear “GUILT.” Not guilty, but I literally took on the personification of Guilt. It’s not what I did- it’s who I was. Then I woke up. I didn’t know what to do with this strange experience, but I knew this dream was no joking matter, and there was an issue at the core of my heart that I needed to address.
For as long as I can remember, I always felt very accountable- to myself, to my family, to my teachers and peers, and mostly to God. My parents were fairly laid back, very kind, and always quick to forgive, but I put so much pressure on myself to always “do the right thing.” Maybe it had to do with growing up in a Christian school where competition was keen for grades and extra-curricular activities. Maybe it had to do with proving myself as a youngest child. I think it had more to do with the awareness that I am a sinner, that I won’t ever measure up, yet I want to do something good with my life- I want to make an impact. I remember there were days in high school when I was so stressed out about homework and grades and even pulled all-nighters so that I could participate in athletics, drama, music, student senate, and church youth group and pull off those A grades. My mom would challenge me, “Why don’t you skip school and have a personal day?” “Why don’t you not do your homework or not study for that test? Does it really matter if for once in your life you fail?” Don’t get me wrong here- she wasn’t advocating for laziness or saying that education doesn’t matter- rather, I believe she was trying to get me to realize that the most important things in life are not always achieving, and that even if we fail here and there, it’s going to be ok. We’re not perfect- we are human. We can’t juggle everything- only God can. There are times when we are weak, but He is strong. There are times when we fall down, but He can pick us up again, and we will be ok.
I’ve seen this “guilt” trend carry over into the first few months of marriage. Thank God I have a wonderful husband who always reminds me that I don’t have to be perfect, and he can laugh with me about my mishaps and failings. I love being in the kitchen, finding new recipes to experiment with, and I so enjoy taking care of our home when I’m not working on music. I was so excited about this one recipe I found for crock pot made-from-scratch chicken and dumplings. We went to the store together the night before to get all the ingredients. I got up early and cut all the vegetables, prepared the chicken, and turned on the crockpot. I checked on it a few times and was a little baffled because it seemed like the chicken wasn’t cooking very fast. A few hours went by, and I was really confused- the crockpot wasn’t even hot! I checked and I had turned the dial on- so I turned it up to high instead of low. Then I realized when I moved some kitchen appliances out of the way of the electric plug- that I had actually plugged in our smoothie blender instead of the crockpot that morning! Our chicken had sat there for hours, and dinner was wasted! Ruined! I had failed! I called Jamie at work, in tears. He burst into laughter, and was so relieved that I was crying about that and not something more serious. He came home, and fixed us dinner. His unwavering love and understanding and sense of humor lifted me when I felt like a failure as a wife!
About a week or so later, I was making pasta, and my hand slipped, and it all fell into the sink of dirty, soapy dishes instead of the strainer. Once again- husband to the rescue- he helped me make dinner all over again! And then there’s fish…I’ve overcooked it, undercooked it, and the worst was the night I left it out on the counter because when he came home he asked if I wanted to exercise instead of eating dinner right away…and the fish went bad! I have to admit, a few tears might have been in my eyes, and Jamie just hugged me, laughed in his kind, care-free way, and let me know that it wasn’t my fault- it was an innocent mistake, and everything was ok! His words during one of my teary-eyed “I’m a failure” moments were, “I’m your husband. I love you unconditionally, no matter what. It’s not about what you do or don’t do. I will always love you.” In that moment, it struck me in a way like never before in my life- that is how Christ loves the church, how our Heavenly Father loves His children. God’s love is without condition. UNCONDITIONAL. EVERLASTING!
The love of God does not depend on us, on how good we are, on how perfect we are, on what we do or say or don’t do…it is all about HIS PERFECTION AND GOODNESS.
I felt in that moment the name GUILT lifted from me, and the name LOVED bestowed upon me. It’s like when God told Abram he would then be called Abraham. Or when He told Saul he would be called Paul. A new name was given to me. The name the enemy has wanted me to embrace my entire life is Guilt. The name that God is teaching me to identify myself as is Loved. I haven’t earned it. I don’t deserve it. I don’t even comprehend it, but it is who I am as a child of God. My dear friend, LOVED is who you are if you have received the gift and inheritance into God’s Kingdom. It’s simply a gift. He shall name you LOVED and you will be His child. No matter what you’ve done. No matter how much you don’t measure up. No matter how many times you’ve failed or fumbled or fallen. No matter how weak or clumsy or unnoticed you feel. No matter what your past is or what family you came from. No matter where you are now or what opportunities you’ve let sail by.
In a sermon recently, Pastor Gary Hamrick challenged my heart on a very important point- reminding me that I am not perfect, but my Savior is perfect, and I am perfectly justified and loved! He reflected on the fact that the law only exposes my sinfulness. The rules cannot save- they just show how sinful I am! I can’t possibly keep all the rules- nobody can! “The law is a mirror that brings us to Christ.” Because I believe in Christ, I am justified (Acts 13:39). Being justified is truly “just as if I never sinned.” I did sin. I did make mistakes. I did fail, but because of Christ, and the faith I place in the power of the cross, my name is no longer Guilt. I can rest in the finished work of Christ.
Let this excerpt from Carolyn Mahoney sink into your heart: “[Let’s] direct our attention toward Jesus Christ and His finished work on the cross…Robert Murray McCheyne had a wonderful antidote to self-focus. He suggested that we should take ten looks at Christ for every look at ourself. Every time we are tempted to be discouraged by our own disappointing performance, we must look to our Savior whose perfect performance has been credited to us. Jesus died to redeem us from both the penalty and the power of sin in our lives. May we revel in His grace and marvel at His mercy in our lives!”
Romans 8:1-2 “Therefore there is now no condemnation [no guilty verdict, no punishment] for those who are in Christ Jesus [who believe in Him as personal Lord and Savior]. For the law of the Spirit of life [which is] in Christ Jesus [the law of our new being] has set you free from the law of sin and death.”
John 3:16-18 “For God so [greatly] loved and dearly prized the world, that He [even] gave His [One and] only begotten Son, so the whoever believes and trusts in Him [as Savior] shall not perish, but have eternal life. For God did not send the Son into the world to judge and condemn the world [that is, to initiate the final judgement of the world], but that the world might be saved through Him. Whoever believes and has decided to trust in Him [as personal Savior and Lord] is not judged [for this one, there is no judgment, no rejection, no condemnation];…”
1 John 3:19-23 “By this we shall know that we are of the truth and reassure our heart before Him; for whenever our heart condemns us, God is greater than our heart, and He knows everything. Beloved, if our heart does not condemn us, we have confidence before God…And this is His commandment, that we believe in the name of His Son Jesus Christ and love one another, just as He has commanded us.”