Let us draw near to God with a sincere heart in full assurance of faith, having our hearts sprinkled to clear us of a guilty conscience….
I have come that they might have life, and have it to the full.
-Jesus (John 10:10)
Due to some study-related travel this week, I found myself sitting in an airport terminal in Chicago. As one of the busiest airports in the world, O’Hare is hopping at any hour of the day. A place to sit is hard to find. But when I finally found one, my eyes landed on one particular spot that was definitely not hopping.
As if caught in a frozen moment of time, a payphone wall was directly across from me. These phone stations created a bubble of non-activity, looking like a ghost town in an otherwise vibrant airport. The phones hung there defiantly, covering the wall with blatant disregard of the fact that they no longer served any actual purpose.
I tried to imagine a situation today today where five payphones would be needed side by side. Perhaps in the case of an absolute emergency where every iPhone battery combusts at the same time. Or maybe if a cell phone tower collapsed (but you could always send a message over wifi), or a movie director was making a low budget indie film set in 1997. That’s about it. And let’s be honest, how many phone numbers do you really have memorized? If people ask me what my wife’s phone number is, I tell them it’s #1 my favorites tab.
That wall was completely unnecessary. You know what the airport could really use there? A bench, a charging station, or better yet, some green plants to form an oasis in the middle of a busy airport! Anything purposeful or beautiful would be worth the renovation.
I’ve been thinking about what "payphone walls" exist in our lives these days. Things that just sit there doing nothing but taking up space that could be used in so many better ways. There are endless options, but for many today, guilt over past mistakes has become one payphone wall.
At some point in our lives, the mistakes we make and the gross feeling that comes afterwards has a real purpose. It upsets our equilibrium and reminds us that something is not right. It can move us to repent, to change, and to restore relationships. But as time moves on, if guilt remains, it simply takes up emotional space. It accomplishes nothing for the kingdom of God, and wastes energy that could be used for better purposes.
I’m thankful that the way of Jesus moves us toward a far better “technology” that makes guilt-dependence obsolete.
Sounds simple, doesn’t it? It is, and yet it’s not.
We figure that the best way to do the right thing is to constantly beat ourselves up over the many times we do the wrong things. But the reality is that experiencing forgiveness from God releases the crushing emotional space of ever present guilt, changing us permanently and freeing us to focus again on loving those around us. It’s like the provocative lyrics from a Mumford and Sons song as they allude to the prodigal son image:
It’s not the long walk home that will change this heart //
but the welcome I receive with the re-start.
Since you may have been formed by a faith that hinged on a steady dose of guilt, learning to rest in grace means overcoming the mentality that it’s cheating. It’s not. Lean into to the person of Jesus and you will be constantly discovering that a spirit of peace and wholeness is the gift of God for the imperfect many, not the perfect few.
You are loved and given full access to God’s grace. If you’ve got a wall of guilt taking up needless space, then you are missing a better way to become a disciple. Time to invite Jesus to renovate your heart and clear out some space to rest in grace and love accordingly.
Jesus, replace our guilt with grace, so that we may live with more freedom and capacity to love than ever before.