There is a classic Peanuts comic strip where Lucy finds Charlie Brown at the shore of a lake. He picks up a rock and throws it as far as he can into the water, whereupon, Lucy reminds Charlie Brown how long it took for that pebble to become a pebble and find its exact resting place on the shore and now he's tossed it back to do the journey all over again... and then she walks away, leaving Charlie Brown to say: "Everything I do makes me feel guilty".
My previous post makes me feel guilt. Looking at eye-candy makes me feel guilt. Meeting fellow MOHOs on the side makes me feel guilt. Not telling my wife about my blog makes me feel guilt. Hanging my head in silence at the feet of intolerance in recent quorum meetings makes me feel guilt. Everything I do makes me feel guilty... I am Charlie Brown.
In teaching priesthood meeting yesterday, I struggled with what to teach. So often, we are assigned topics or manuals are handed to us and the prescribed course is established. I hate the curriculum coordination that seems so controlling and limiting, and often wonder why we can't have a bit more autonomy in what is taught. Yet, yesterday, I was given that autonomy... an open book to teach whatever was pressing on my mind that I felt inspired to discuss.
So, I chose to discuss an overriding theme of my blog (tempted to have the brethren just go find me on the Internet and they'd understand me better - wouldn't that be a joy ride!). That of carrying our guilt with us and not letting the full power of the Atonement take hold of our lives. We can accept that Christ pays the penalty of our sin, but do we allow him to take upon himself our guilt? If we have to be innocent like little children to enter the Father's mansion, can we do so as penalty-free individuals only and not guilt-free as well?
Jesus Christ did not just assume the punishment for our sins - he took the guilt as well. The sin, the experience itself with all of its negative consequences and ramifications, and not just the penalty for sin, became his. This is a crucial distinction. In the Atonement, Jesus does not just suffer our punishment for us, he becomes the guilty party in our place - he becomes guilty for us and experiences our guilt...
If Jesus had assumed only the punishment for our sins but not the sins themselves, then when the penalty was paid, we would merely be "guilty but forgiven", instead of being sanctified through the Atonement, being perfect-in-Christ, and being innocent and worthy of the kingdom of God and the presence of the Father. Part of the good news of Christ's atonement is that it renders us sinless, innocent, perfect, and celestial, which could not happen if we stubbornly insisted on suffering for our own sins. In that case, while our sins might eventually be paid for, they would remain ours, like canceled checks. Without the atonement of Christ that removes guilt as well as pays its penalty, we can never receive the innocence necessary to dwell in the presence of God.
-- Stephen E. Robinson "Believing Christ"
Guilt should lead to repentance and remorse. Never feeling guilt would lead one to be "beyond feeling" and having no conscience at all, and thus no feeling of right or wrong or the need for repentance or remorse and sorrow, and thus, no need for improvement or progression.
Living with guilt is damning, is anti-progress and is debilitating. It is not part of the Gospel plan. Feeling guilt for something where no guilt should be harboured, is anti-Christ.
Why, then, knowing this, can I not let it go?
Oh, that I could learn that lesson...