Mommy guilt is a powerful thing, as most mothers can tell you. Many of us worry that somehow we’re completely messing things up for our kids. There are so many different books out there telling us how we “should” be parenting, and a lot of us read them only to realize we fall far short. We worry that we’re damaging our kids for life, that they’ll be ruined forever if we do this parenting thing wrong. Hence the painfully true E-Card that says, “Behind every great kid is a mom who’s pretty sure she’s screwing it up.” One of the most encouraging books I’ve read is Mommy Grace: Erasing Your Mommy Guilt by Sheila Shuller Coleman. I really need to re-read that book, because just last week we had a really bad morning, and I felt guilty about it the rest of the day. Let me illustrate, but read on at your own risk…

It started out like any old morning. My oldest had set his alarm clock and was the first to get dressed and come out for breakfast. I felt particularly ambitious that morning and decided to make oatmeal with blueberries instead of cold cereal. Well, okay, we were really low on milk. That, too. But still, I thought it was a nice gesture to go to a bit more effort to start off the drizzly cold day. When my other son emerged, the two boys got into an argument. Nothing new there, and as I asked them to stop, the argument escalated as if they hadn’t even heard me. Probably they hadn’t. Again, nothing new. I got the girls dressed and ready, and at the breakfast table all four of them were either whining, complaining, bickering, or talking back in a smart aleck way. Oh, Super Nanny, where art thou? What would you do at this point? I found myself wistfully asking. But of course no Super Nanny magically appeared. As the time drew nigh for leaving to get to school on time, I told the boys at least three times to get their shoes and backpacks and get out to the car. Instead, they decided it was a great time to start racing back and forth down the hall timing each other. Both girls decided it was an opportune time to start screaming over something or other. I’d had it. I slammed down the brush I was using to put pigtails in my daughter’s hair and yelled at them all. Okay, “yelled” might be a slight understatement. But it got their attention. I won’t go into detail about exactly what I said, but be assured it was not pretty. We all stormed out to the car with me still fuming and wondering why I ever thought motherhood sounded rosy and ideal. I slammed the door shut behind me and started the car as the kids sat there in silence. But then I realized this wasn’t how I wanted them to go off to school. I shut off the car and sat there silently for a few moments trying to gain back a modicum of composure. I took deep breaths. And then, with a concerted effort, I apologized. I told them I didn’t want us to start our morning in this way, so we said a prayer for God to forgive all of us and to help us put it behind us and make a new start for the day. Then we went on our way. I’d love to say all was forgotten, but I was honestly still pretty mad at them. Not to mention disappointed in myself for the poor way I had handled things. Even after praying for forgiveness and asking God to give us a fresh start, I still felt keenly a sense of failure. And I had a doctor appointment that afternoon right at pick-up time, so I knew I wouldn’t be seeing my kids again until dinnertime. The day dragged on, and I kept praying about that same incident over and over throughout the day. I had failed again, and I just knew my kids were going to remember this one incident and be messed up because of it. Way to go, Ruth. Parenting at its best.

So what is it that makes you feel guilty? What in your past makes you cringe? Do you beat yourself up over something you did long ago (or maybe not so long ago)? Sure, maybe you’ve prayed for forgiveness, and you know God has forgiven you, but you can’t quite bring yourself to forget or even forgive yourself. Well, I have news for you. Paul addresses this very issue. Now, truly, if anyone had cause for a guilty conscience, it was Paul. Formerly known as Saul, this guy was a persecutor extraordinaire. He was trying his best to stamp out these pesky Christians, and was even on his way to Damascus to arrest more of them when Jesus literally stopped him in his tracks and changed the entire course of his life. Now a Christian himself, Paul had every reason to feel guilty about the fact that he had once violently opposed Christianity and even stood by approving Stephen’s death. But look at his words in Philippians 3:13-14- “One thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus.” Do you see what he says here? “Forgetting what is behind.” Now, that doesn’t mean he’s trying to gloss over anything or deny his past. But he knows he has already been forgiven, and he takes God at His Word. Check out the following verses from the Old Testament:

“As far as the east is from the west, so far has he removed our transgressions from us.” (Psalm 103:12)

“I, even I, am he who blots out your transgressions, for my own sake, and remembers your sins no more.” (Isaiah 43:25)

“I have swept away your offenses like a cloud, your sins like the morning mist…” (Isaiah 44:22)

You see, God forgives and forgets. Jesus already paid for your sins. All of them. Even the “big” ones. Believe that and give yourself some grace for past sins. (Side note: if you have a recurring sin that is harming others or yourself, like alcoholism or abusive behaviors, you need to seek help. Don’t fall into the trap of such sins and then use the excuse, “Well, I’m forgiven,” all the while continuing in that sin. That’s a very dangerous path.)

So like Paul, take God at His Word and know that you are forgiven. Forgetting your past sins and trusting in God’s forgiveness gives God the proper glory for Jesus’ sacrifice. You are forgiven. God has forgotten. Even something like a ruined morning.

Photo is Guilt by Hartwig HKD