For your name’s sake O Lord, pardon my guilt, for it is great. (Psalm 25:11 NRSV)
If I knew magnolias were so messy I probably would not have planted them. We moved to Texas twenty years ago into a new construction neighborhood. The front yard was put in by the builder, the barren back yard was a constant mud pit with the pounding thunderstorms virtually every afternoon. Add a four year-old who saw no issue with red Texas clay and new carpet… we needed some landscaping, stat!
Living in the south for the first time I made a snap decision that we needed magnolias. I loved the movie Steel Magnolias, the strength of the women, the way they kept going in the worst of times, the way they could rely on each other. Magnolias are the trees of the south! Magnolias on the fence line would be perfect! Right after we got the yard put in a neighbor down the street commented that her husband wouldn’t let her have magnolias, “They are so messy.”
Thus began the guilt.
The leaves fall year round. Really? When they get stressed in the heat they REALLY fall. Drought? They throw a pouty, hissy-fit of leaves all over the place paying no attention to which side of the fence whatsoever. On our lawn or in the neighbor’s pool, those trees don’t care.
But I sure did.
I could clean up after messy trees in my own back yard, but it’s not like I could hop the fence and toss our leaves back over to our side. Well, not unless it was the dead of night with a waning moon. Don’t ask me how I know this.
After twenty years those trees are really big now, dropping trashcans full of leaves at a time. Guilt by the bagful. I sometimes contemplate baking cookies for the neighbors as a sign of repentance. Then I’d get busy and the cookies never quite make it to the oven. I have even felt guilty about that!
New neighbors moved in two years ago. We met over the back fence one afternoon. I apologized profusely about our trees. “Let me know if they are a problem or if you need branches trimmed back. I’m so sorry they’re so messy…”
A gracious smile stopped by tumble of word. “We love your trees. They are beautiful. We wouldn’t have a bit of shade in the evening without them. Just look at all the blooms about to come.”
Blooms? What blooms? The guilt for messing up their yard took away the beauty of the blooms.
Funny how guilt is so insidious, yet serves no purpose. We beat ourselves up for things that matter little to others. We withhold forgiveness for ourselves when others offer it freely.
Special needs parenting can come with a heaping plate of guilt for so many things. Guilt for birth differences, lack of access to therapy and medications, lack of time for family and friends, short-changing siblings who get a smaller share of everything, to name a few. Does any of that guilt serve a purpose? Does it help in anyway? Or does it just make the load heavier? Do you work through it to a place of forgiveness just to find a few days later that you’ve picked it back up again?
Our lives are messy, like those trees. So what? We grow stronger through the years, blessing others in ways we do not even see. We too have beautiful blooms. Do we take the time to recognize them for ourselves?
Whatever guilt it is that you carry, God is bigger. God forgives, wiping clean the slate for a fresh start. Allow yourself to live into that gift by giving over to God your guilt and taking back a life free of self-condemnation.
My prayer for you today, enjoy the blooms!
Image: Magnolia Grandiflora Flower by Andrew Butko [GFDL 1.3 (www.gnu.org/licenses/fdl-1.3.html) or CC-BY-SA-3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)%5D, via Wikimedia Commons