We’re all familiar with the aftershock. Those precious seconds after sinning (whether it’s a thought, an action, or a habit). It feels as though the whole universe could fit in the cavity of our guilt, and it would still be hungry. Then busyness quickly begins collapsing the cavity. A syllabi stares at you from your computer, exams loom like a cloud in the distance, and the assignments sit in a pile on your desk. When will I deal with this sin?
When sin creeps in and pounces during the school year, it’s so easy to feel like there’s not time to address it properly. What do we do? We push away the guilt, submerge ourselves in the semester’s demands, and keep trudging along, all in an attempt to wander back to God and the gospel. But the guilty feelings don’t go away. They interrupt our productivity, like push notifications.
I tried just about everything. I gave myself the silent treatment. The shun. The time-out. I took away toys, and even tried punishming myself and paying my penance, like denying myself proper care with sleep and food. Nothing worked. My flesh and guilt felt like this stubborn-willed child that just would not obey; and I, therefore, did not want to have to drag around in public.
How do we find grace in the midst of a semester that’s filled with benchmarks and deadlines?
Consider Your Needs
It’s a basic truth: God not only knows all our needs, but has created them inside of us as a metaphor for our deeper need for him (Matthew 5:27–32). Sin is one manifestation of our need for God’s grace. When our guilty conscience keeps us awake at night, stabbing our self-worth and leading us away from God in fear, those are invitations to come again to his throne of grace, to stay our hand from practicing surgery on ourselves, so that the true Physician can work (Luke 5:31–32).
Eventually I learned that my late-night Netflix and/or Facebook sessions had much more to do with my lack of peace than they did about my need for rest. I didn’t need recuperation of strength to get out there and single-handedly beat my sin. I needed (and need) repentance.