Guilt, the Gift That Keeps on Giving

Brethren, I do not regard myself as having laid hold of it yet; but one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and reaching forward to what lies ahead, I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.—Philippians 3:13-14

I recently dropped off something at a neighbor’s house, and he commented about my car – a bright red, mint-condition 1997 Lexus SC300 my husband got for me two years ago when he took over the family minivan.

“It’s my consolation prize for the red Mustang convertible Bill made me sell when we were newly married,” I told him.

“You’ve sure gotten a lot of mileage out of that Mustang!” replied the neighbor, an old friend and a king of quick comebacks.

It’s true I have gotten much mileage out of that car, even long after I sold it. I’ve held on to my frustration about having to sell the car so tightly that the frustration has become a well-nurtured pet. I feed it and take it out often so it gets plenty of exercise.

And why shouldn’t I? I bought that car in my mother’s memory. We would walk past the Ford dealership on our way to the laundromat each week, and she would fawn over the red Thunderbird while I would fawn over the red Mustang.

“I’m going to have one of those someday,” we would sigh in unison. She got hers (albeit a regrettably ugly late ‘70s version) before she died; right after she died I got mine. But my then-new husband deemed it unsafe for his 5-year-old daughter, whom I already loved as my own, so we sold it.

I never let him forget it. Oh, no. Not only that but I would usually wait to bring it up until we were around people who had never heard the story. I think I turned that guilt odometer many, many times over.

So after 16 years of driving a minivan—a vehicle this speed queen once swore she would never drive—I was rewarded for my quiet endurance with my new-to-me shiny, fast, red car.

Don’t think for a minute that getting my Lexus coupe shut me up—no, not when I had a great story to tell. So I was not only failing to forget what lies behind (my red Mustang convertible) but I was failing to reach forward to what lies ahead (my husband’s sanity, our general marital happiness, my testimony and, ultimately, my effectiveness for Christ within and beyond my family).

This space and your attention span don’t afford me the liberty of listing all my many transgressions in this matter, but let me share with you just one more.

Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you.—Ephesians 4:32

I never really forgave him. I might have said that I did a thousand times over, and my vociferous complaints might even have been in jest. But the fact that I refused to let it go strips away the veneer of my hardened heart.

My guilt has been the gift that has kept on giving. For my husband, it’s been a very long trip. But this guilt trip has come to its last stop. It’s time to look forward to what lies ahead. Maybe it will be a turbo kit.

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