Reflecting on Guilt….

The summer is almost over and it seems like I have accomplished little or nothing. When school ends, we plan to do so many things, both chores and fun excursions. Yet somehow by the end of the summer, the heat grinds us to a halt, and we simply slow down or just stop. So I was drawn to this photo taken by my friend Carole of Harkness State Park in Connecticut. Ivy covers the cut stone arch, even the urns are overflowing with ivy. The beautiful patterns on the iron gate echo the curves of the vines. The gate is left open, leading to a lovely garden and we are invited to simply walk through. Yet how often do we just turn away, not even noticing what we are missing? Perhaps guilt is a lot like this gate. We are offered forgiveness, yet do not accept it. We insist on remembering our shortcomings, on clinging to our mistakes. Or we seek to deny anything is wrong, and are doomed to repeat those mistakes again and again. Both paths represent guilt that can paralyze, preventing us from claiming the promise of abundant life. We become prisoners of the past, haunted by regrets of mistakes we cannot take back. Confession is an important part of the Christian tradition, a recognition that we are all human and therefore, all fall short. Yet confession seems out of favor in recent times, requiring us to acknowledge our sins, rather than keeping up a façade of perfection. Turning away from confession is like turning away from this gate, and foregoing the path that lies beyond. We remain in the shadow of guilt on this side of the gate, rather than walking through to the light of forgiveness on the other side. Yet guilt does serve an important purpose. Healthy guilt leads to repentance and growth, to a better and more fulfilling life. Peter, who denied Christ three times, became the rock of the church. Paul, the most zealous persecutor of Christians, became a powerful voice of the faith, spreading the Gospel to the Gentiles. Take time today to consider the ways you have fallen short, either by what you have done, or left undone. Leave your sins at the foot of the cross, accepting the forgiveness of Christ. Let go of what you have done, and let God show you what lies ahead. Pray for the Holy Spirit to guide you to a better life on the other side of the gate. Photo by Carole Buckwalter © 2011

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