I feel so guilty.
I haven't accomplished very much for quite awhile. I have failed to receive an acceptable score on the all-American litmus test of self worth; how much did you get done today?
And...I procrastinate. I sometimes feel almost paralyzed. I find myself sitting when I should be painting the hallway or cleaning the upstairs bathroom.
This evening I finally geared up to do that paint job when I felt the Lord's nudge to pray. I opened my heart to God, and this thought came: "Look at what you have endured today."
In the morning my father-in-law was hospitalized with chest pains. When we knew he was stable, my husband and I drove to the nursing home we've chosen for Mom and delivered our doctor's prescription for adult daycare. We made tentative plans to bring Mom to the facility one afternoon next week. As a transition strategy we will utilize daycare as needed until the time we can no longer care for her at home.
I've been Mom's primary caregiver for eleven years.
After all this, I came home and I sat. And as I sat, the push to accomplish things attacked; I felt an overwhelming need to fortify my self-worth with visible signs of tasks completed. But the emotional paralysis was stronger, and so I just sat and felt guilty for doing so. I know it will seem unlikely to those who read these words, but I had no idea that the trauma of my father-in-law's health crisis or the grief of our decision to transition mom to nursing home care was impacting me at all.
As caregivers we have to become skilled at separating ourselves from our emotions; it's a survival tactic, but we need to be careful not to carry this strategy too far. Until I quieted myself before the Lord I had not connected the guilt I feel over Mom with my deer-in-the-headlights immobility. I condemned myself for not accomplishing household chores when the actual source of my guilt has to do with my mother. And I need to clarify that not all of my shame is false guilt. I am heart-weary, and am no longer dependably able to be kind to Mom when she is unkind to me. I've spoken some pretty harsh words to her.
It's good to bring this guilt to the Lord's light, because in His light I can see that in making plans for her future, I'm only doing what is best for Mom. And if what is best for her is also best for me, I shouldn't feel guilty.
But I do.
As caregivers we suffer guilt that comes from sin, because it is impossible to be perfect toward our care recipients 100% of the time. But we also suffer false guilt, accusations launched at us from the devil, who hates us and wants us miserable (and would rather we cleaned a closet than come before the Lord to be washed clean of sin and freed from the enemy's lies).
Here are two Scriptures that come to mind, solace that offers true healing as opposed to slapping a band-aid labeled "look-at-all-I've-accomplished" over my buried guilt:
"If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness" (1 John 1:9 NIV). Father forgive me for the unkind words I've spoken to Mom. Forgive me when I've been unable to turn the other cheek. Forgive me when I've acted uncaring. Help me to be dependable in loving Mom with Your love.
"Even though our inner thoughts may condemn us with storms of guilt and constant reminders of our failures, we can know in our hearts that in His presence God Himself is greater than any accusation. He knows all things" (1 John 3:10-20 The Voice). Father, thank You for understanding how battered my heart feels. Thank You for soothing my injuries with Your healing balm. Thank You for loving me when I can't love myself. Thank You for holding me in Your arms while I cry. I praise Your Name.
If you've been feeling guilty and overwhelmed of late, this comes with a prayer that you can quiet yourself before the Lord and allow Him to show you the sins He will freely forgive and the heartaches He is willing to heal.