Learning About Guilt and Trust (via God, Neopets, and My Brother)

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Guilt is important. It is that heaviness in our chests that I like to imagine as the Holy Spirit attempting to shake down the walls of our hearts, all red in the face, shouting in exasperation, “What are you doing, you idiot!? How many times to I have to tell you? STOP!” Maybe that’s just me though.

My earliest recollection of guilt comes from my elementary years. It all started with a little website called Neopets…

Silent tears stream down my face in rivulets as I lie staring up at the wooden slats, barely perceptible in the darkness, the only thing keeping him suspended above me. During the day I hate sitting here, constantly terrified that the boards are going to break and bring the bed smashing down on top of me. At times like this, however, it’s a different story. There is nowhere more comforting in the dark hours of night than right here on this bottom bunk. Whether I’ve been startled awake by a nightmare involving ferocious beasts of unnamable origin. Or simply find myself unable to sleep due to the heavy burden of a guilty conscience. There is only one relief for me.

I crawl out of bed, tiptoe down the hall, and try my best to mask the shrill creak of the hinges on his door. Once I’m safely in the room I find my refuge and slip under the covers. I find solace instead of annoyance in their barely used stiffness. Maybe it is the ruffle of the blankets below him that does it. Or maybe it is the sound of breathing, the sense of another warm body in the room. Whatever the reason, I know he’s been pulled away from the magical world of nighttime imaginings. Even so, I ask, “Are you awake?”

He doesn’t answer right away. I feel the bed’s vibrations as he shifts around above me. The whole structure creaks as he settles himself into a good listening position. Finally I hear it, a noise meant to express all of his exasperation, “Mmmmhmmmm.”

His frustration doesn’t faze me in the slightest— any friend or foe who dared disturb his slumber would be greeted with the same treatment— I know no matter how annoyed I make him, he will always be there for me.

So I start talking. Words fly from my mouth in such a fast-paced conglomeration of sounds, syllables, and phrases that it would take super powers to make sense out of the mess of them. Somehow he does though. I finish telling him of how I lied. About how I told the website I am older than I actually am. Then how I proceeded to use the newfound freedom this bought me by talking to other Neopets players (you know, about damnable things like what their favorite pet was and whether they had a lot of customers come to their shop). I did all this even knowing our parents greatest internet rule was not to talk to strange internet users via chatrooms or private messages.

I feel the storm inside of me begin to calm slightly. Not only did I disobey my parents I also lied. Even though the kind creators of Neopets will never know nor care, I know. Even more importantly, with the newfound realization that when “Jesus lives in your heart” he legitimately lives there and sometimes sends messages by causing whirlwinds to mess up your insides, I care too.

Josh doesn’t say anything at first. He rarely does after all. When he finally speaks his answer is simple and straightforward. “You should tell mom and dad. I won’t tell anyone. You should make the right choice yourself.”

The pressure inside of me seems to leech away even more until it is almost completely gone. Of course he hadn’t told me anything I didn’t already know. I didn’t need someone to tell me what the right thing to do was. I just needed someone to listen, and he did. Then and today he listens, sighs, shakes his head, and loves me despite my silliness. There is no one in this world I trust more. I have never known him to betray a confidence.

While the Holy Spirit taught me about guilt and shame, someone else taught me then— and continues to teach me now— about trust.

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