January 28, 2013 ~ Overcoming Guilt and Embracing Joy
One area so many mothers struggle with is guilt, especially those who experience the loss of a baby/child. We want to address this struggle in this post. It will help mothers quietly battling guilt for living life and experiencing joy to know they are not alone. Other moms silently battle this as well. Whether it is the startling first time you really laugh after losing your child, or whether you have experienced the healing balm of joy for years, share your thoughts on this week’s post.
I am so excited about this week’s topic. First, because I know that we mommas tend to battle the guilt from time-to-time…or you know….everyday. Well, mommy guilt is not reserved for those whose children are on this earth. It’s not just for the days when we didn’t take time for devotions, fed our children chicken nuggets or frozen pizza…again, yelled like a banshee after being sassed or annoyed, rushed through the day, ate dinner on TV trays, etc. Nope. Moms with children in heaven have mommy guilt too. In fact, in many ways, those of us who have lost children are plagued with an extra measure of guilt.
Powerful. Gnawing. Nightmare inducing. Ulcer creating. What-if filling. Anxiety ridden.
And, second, because the truth is…we aren’t meant to carry this heavy burden. Jesus wants us to be free. To experience joy. To laugh and live…even in the midst of this sorrow. Life is, as my friend Angie Smith often says, a sacred dance of grief and joy. It is. And, it’s ok to laugh. Your child is laughing in heaven, and living and well. Better than you are, actually! It’s ok to live, mama. In fact, live the best possible life you can. Nothing would honor your child more. I have carried the guilt. I have felt the heavy yoke. I have been weighted heavy with the albatross of guilt and fear and what-if.
But, Jesus has a different plan. He desires freedom for us.
This post talks about what Jesus says about the yoke we carry…
Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. Matthew 11:28-30
The yoke represents all the things we try to carry on our shoulders: brokenness we try to fix on our own, our sin, our hurts, disappointments, regret, responsibility for those we love, expectations that will never be reached – both those unmet by others and those we fail to meet, grief, pain, failures, illness…every burden of this life. When we carry it alone on our shoulders, it weighs heavily on our back, stealing our energy, wearing down our resolve. Our shoulders slump under its weight and every step is cumbersome. Our heads hang in broken despair.
Then, One who loves us comes alongside and lifts the heavy yoke from our weary shoulders. Relief washes over us as we look up into the eyes of our Rescuer. He walks beside us, carrying the weight of the burdens that we created, the very buckets we filled with all of our “stuff”. His yoke is easy, His burden is light. This is the yoke He means for us to carry…the one with Him doing the lifting while we find rest for our tired souls.
He never meant for us to carry all of the things we heap into our buckets and try to carry on our backs. The only part we are responsible for is the moment when we are asked to release the yoke. Sometimes, He comes alongside us to lift the weight of our burden, and we hold on tightly…thinking we must continue to carry all of this heavy weight. I have been guilty of this stubbornness, and He has reminded me time and time again to release the yoke that is not mine to carry. Sometimes I only listen when it gets so heavy that I begin to stumble under the weight. What freedom awaits for the day I learn to let go sooner, or better yet, never pick up my heavy-laden yoke at all.
Please don’t be afraid to heal. Many mothers express being afraid that their baby will be forgotten if they experience healing. Or feeling guilty if they laugh. Almost as if clinging to sorrow is something we must do to honor their lives. That is not true. Healing does not mean forgetting or diminishing the life of your child. Take it from one of the moms whose been walking this walk awhile. Life presents plenty of opportunity for sorrow. If joy should find you, embrace it and soak it in.
When my mother was really sick, I was gripped with fear. She was my constant. She was the first person to love me…and loved me the longest. She was always there. Fear tore at my heart, years before her actual death. Fear had always been a close companion of mine, along with his good friend, anxiety. They work so well together. What-ifs I didn’t even want to think darkened my mind, with their smoky lies, bringing doubt to further cloud the haze. The smothering haze. Then, something shifted.
However cheesy it may sound, God used the song “I Hope You Dance” to speak to my heart around that time, preparing me for what was coming. I wonder if my answer would’ve been different if I knew what waited for me. He whispered …will you dance? I don’t want you to sit it out anymore. Will you promise that whenever you have the choice to sit it out or dance…that you will choose to dance? In fact…the more afraid you are, I want you to trust, press into My truth and dance. Whatever it is…if I ask you to go, will you be willing to go?
I swallowed hard, and answered yes.
Just when the ministry was beginning…just as I started to learn dance, she was diagnosed with the cancer that would take her life fourteen months later. I stumbled and flailed, but I kept clinging and dancing, by His grace.
You may not be ready to dance. And, that’s ok. Even scripture gives a time for everything. This Christian isn’t going to judge your performance in grief. Or try to measure your faith by your response from the deepest pit.And, I hope you don’t take my words that way, because I know all too well the guilt that comes from the other end of the spectrum. Feeling guilty for grieving and hurting…because Christians should be joyful and hopeful, after all. Blech…don’t get me started about that line of performance malarky that keeps us thinking it’s about our performance, our faith…instead of God’s grace. In truth, it’s just another form of bondage that keeps us from true freedom. But, dear sister, please remember…Ecclesiastes speaks of a time to mourn, and a time to dance.
Just don’t stop dancing. Beautiful one, you are made to dance, even in the midst of the pain. And, your dance, can only grow more beautiful through the desperate clinging. Allow Him to heal you and lift the heavy yoke. Allow Him to comfort your tears and pain. Allow Him to move your heart toward dancing when the time comes.
Saying yes to Him was the best thing that ever happened to me.
Those who sow in tears will reap with songs of joy. ~ Psalm 126:5