Taking The Perfect Guilt Trip

Written By Jolene Cheng, Singapore

I throw open the door to my room, fling my bag on the floor, and flop onto the bed.

“Not again!” I scream silently into the pillow. I am horrified—how could I have done something so unthinkable? Why is my soul still so dark and ugly? Anguish at my failure filling my heart, I start the engine and embark on the inevitable trip.

I floor the accelerator and the snowmobile surges forward. I want to flee, to escape cold, hard reality. I want to be alone. Away from others. Away from God. I want to hide, to burrow into the ground like a grub.

The ride seems colder this time round. I’ve always taken my snowmobile for a spin in times of disappointment like this. I recall the precise moment that those foolish words escaped my mouth. I’m beyond hope. Am I really a new creation in Christ?

“Stop it, Jo. Just stop,” a part of me pleads. The further I get from home, the harder the icy wind blows, stinging my cheeks. The ironic thing was that there was no reason for me to lie. Lies make things messy, lead to ever more play-acting. Unnecessary. White lies, half-truths, inconsistencies, just a few of the many ingredients that go into cooking up tall tales. Deceptively delicious dishes that’ll give me indigestion later.

The chill continues to gnaw at my face. It hurts. I contemplate the possibility of a cold, lonely death. At least I won’t feel the pain of being a recalcitrant sinner any longer. How can a heart touched by God’s transforming grace have remained so unchanged in nature?

Somehow, somewhere in the chaos of regret, self-doubt and uncertainty within my heart, I hear a voice say, “I still love you.”

I come to a screeching halt.

I do not cry often. But the realization hits me hard and tears grudgingly trickle down. I am loved. My conscience pricks me anew, “Now look what you’ve done.” But this time I consider the guilt it brings merciful: it beats responding with apathy and stubbornness in the face of such redeeming love.

I remind myself of the truth, of grace beyond my full comprehension. This amazing grace redirects my dull eyes to the cross, reaffirms my desperate need for salvation, chastises me painfully, and then restores me gently.

I used to believe that feelings mess people up and we are better off without them. But I now recognize that emotions are a natural part of us. We need not fear them. Sometimes they lead us to consider terrible things. Yet, they are only temporary, fleeting. They need not control us.

God doesn’t expect us to have our act together. If we did, we wouldn’t need saving at all. We would be able to rely on willpower alone to overcome our inner demons. Perhaps all these ongoing battles are signs of God working in us, sanctifying, maturing, and transforming us to be more like Him. We need to let Him work in us and let ourselves work with Him.

Persevere. Fight hard. Return to the presence of God and find peace. There is more than enough grace for you and me.

I heard a song Calvary by Hillsong at a friend’s church a few weeks ago that spoke to my heart. It reminds me that Christ’s work is done, I am no longer enslaved to guilt.

Christ didn’t die to save just my skin, he came to save my soul as well. He died so that I could be free to be responsible, free to face the consequences of my actions. So I guess I’ll save the emotional fuel for better trips—trips where I can marvel at the Creator who made the wintry, dreamy landscapes I have yet to savour.* No matter how chilly it gets, I’ll be fine as long as I return to the source of all warmth. I’ll learn to guard my heart against the cold. I think it’ll get better in time.


*Disclaimer: I live in the tropics and it is my dream to ride a snowmobile and have a dog sled team of my own.


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