Guilt is never easy to face...
Updated: Dec 28, 2021
This morning I was thinking about a day, years ago, when I had a decision to make. It was in the spring of 1987, I was living in Provo, Utah. My second wife and I had just separated. The company I was working for had opened a branch in Los Angeles, California and had asked if I would be willing to go there to run work for them. This would be part of my decision and my dilemma.
My marriage had been a stormy one. Alcohol and drugs controlled our relationship. Both of us had jobs we were good at and it took all the strength we had to keep those careers going. When we were not working we spent most of our time drinking and partying. Anger and sometimes even rage seemed to be the way we would communicate while under the influence, then we would be hurt and disillusioned once we sobered up. There was no peace.
Along with our terrible relationship, she had a teenage son who was hurt and damaged by living in an environment where he felt he was in a war zone. Often, he would run, and we would spend days trying to find him. It got so bad the court finally ordered him to be placed in a youth camp, I think for his own protection. My heart breaks now thinking about him and I often wonder how he came out of it all. But at the time I just wanted out, but I felt guilty about it. Again, part of my decision and my dilemma.
The decision came down to, as it had so many times in my substance-controlled life, should I run and just leave all this pain behind or should I stay and even if our marriage was broken work to fix the damage I could. I had been in this same place before with my first wife and my son. I had run, hard and fast. And the guilt of that was still consuming me.
Now as I sat in the company office in Salt Lake City, I had the decision to make. I remember sitting there and saying, “The hell with it! Yeah, I want the job in LA, when do I leave?” I don’t remember what my boss said but within a week my partner and I were in Glendale, California living at a Holiday Inn, I had run again. And I buried this guilt along with all the others under gallons of booze and mountains of speed.
Guilt is a funny thing. It kind of waits for you. It did that back in the day. When I would sober up there it would be, and I would hide from it again in a whiskey bottle or in a line of crank. I had no way of dealing with it or the pain it caused me. But even more the realization of the pain it caused those I had abandoned or hurt. And it was still there when I accepted Jesus as my Savior, I still wanted to hide from it.
And I tried. But that was changed, as so many things are by God’s Word. As I began to read or at first, listen to the Bible, it was the story of King David that changed my view of guilt and what I needed to do. I mean, here was this guy chosen by God to be a king, but he was as flawed as a man could be. Guilty of seduction and murder, he tried to bury it, hide it, cover it up. But in the end, I saw the difference between him and me was that when his guilt and sin was exposed to him he confessed and surrendered to God’s will. Read what he wrote in Psalm 51:
“For I know my transgressions, and my sin is always before me. Against you, you only I have sinned and done what is evil in your sight; so you are right in your verdict and justified when you judge. (Psalm 51: 3-4)
I still refused to do this but in David’s beautiful Psalm I found the words and the strength. I was able to open my heart to the Lord as I repeated these words:
“Cleanse me with hyssop, and I will be clean; wash me and I will be whiter than snow. (Psalm 51:7)
For the first time in my life I did not turn away from my guilt. I could see it in all it’s ugliness but also for the first time I knew I was not alone. I had believed in Jesus’ saving power but now it became a reality. I could be and was forgiven:
“Create in me a pure heart, O God, and renew a right spirit within me. Cast me not away from your presence or take your Holy Spirit from me. Restore to me the joy of your salvation and grant me a willing spirit to sustain me. (Psalm 51:10-12)
I believed God did this for David, He would do it in me.
Yes, this morning I was reminded of my guilty past. I have not forgotten it. No, far from it. I have turned it over to the Lord, confessed and accepted His grace through the cross of Jesus. But today and every day I seek to make recompense. I have tried to reach out to those I have hurt, and I seek to share the mercy and blessing I have been given. It is a long way from that day back in 1987, but none of that is my doing.
“For it is by grace you (and I) are saved through faith, and this is not your (my) own doing; it is a gift from God."(Ephesians 2:8).
I pray you may experience this today also.