Self-flagellation. I may have never used that word in conversation but I’ve certainly done it. It’s a fancy way of describing beating yourself up, indulging in mom guilt. And mom guilt can feel like this merry-go-round of questioning and condemning myself.
Sometimes I think I enjoy the ride. Why? Why would I enjoy punishment? Maybe I enjoy it because it’s all about me, and I love thinking about myself? I’m so wrapped up in myself, in my performance as a parent that even when I fail, I enjoy punishing myself. Maybe it proves something. Maybe it proves how much I care? It’s like worry. We know we’re not supposed to worry but somehow it feels irresponsible not to. To worry is to care, right?
Did you know that self-flagellation used to be practiced by some Christians? People would literally inflict harm on their bodies as punishment for sins they’d committed or to feel closer to God. But psychological studies also suggest that inflicting pain on yourself makes you feel less guilty. It’s like you’ve paid the price for your sins.
Maybe I enjoy this merry-go-round of mom guilt because I’m trying to be my own savior.
Are we guilty as moms? Yes! We fail all the time. But God has provided a remedy for that – Jesus, on the Cross, dying for us, taking on the punishment we deserved!
To get on the merry-go-round of self-flagellation is to deny the sufficiency of the Cross. Punishing yourself doesn’t make you more holy, it just proves you don’t believe the gospel.
A long time ago I memorized the book of Hebrews. I couldn’t quote it for you now, but when I was working on it I realized that chapters 9 and 10 were really hard to cement in my memory. It frustrated me but then I realized the crux of my memory problem. Satan didn’t want me to really believe the truth found in there.
Hebrews 9 is all about the once for all sufficient sacrifice of Christ. His sacrifice was better than the constant animal sacrifices the priests offered. Why? Because he was the true lamb of God offered once for all. Drink in this truth:
For Christ has entered, not into holy places made with hands, which are copies of the true things, but into heaven itself, now to appear in the presence of God on our behalf. Nor was it to offer himself repeatedly, as the high priest enters the holy places every year with blood not his own, for then he would have had to suffer repeatedly since the foundation of the world. But as it is, he has appeared once for all at the end of the ages to put away sin by the sacrifice of himself. Hebrews 9:24-26
Getting on the merry-go-round of constant self-condemnation does nothing except keep you from the truth of the gospel, the truth that Christ has fully satisfied the punishment we deserved. We must believe this, rest in this. Rest in him.
We don’t honor God or prove to him how holy we are by wallowing in guilt and shame. We honor God by believing in what he has done, in fully trusting in the provision he’s given us in Christ. As a result of our faith in Christ, we are forgiven, accepted and counted righteous in God’s sight.
So when we fail, and we will, don’t get on that merry-go-round. Fly to Christ and believe the gospel.