MAY 28, 2019
Hellboy dropped by the other day.
No, not that one.
Not “a demon, raised from infancy after being conjured by and rescued from the Nazis, grows up to become a defender against the forces of darkness.”
Not the fictional Hellboy…the real one. As a movie buff, I like the fictional one. I hate the real one. Martin Luther is one of my heroes and he hated him too, so I guess I’m in good company.
The real Hellboy was banished from my life years ago and with him went the internal burning in my soul that made me feel deeply ugly and scarred, unworthy, and heavy. When he lived close by, I always felt an internal weight—a heaviness—and I was driven by anxious activity as if by doing more I could scrub my soul clean, and look in the mirror after a long day and pronounce myself cured of unworthiness. As a neighbor and sometimes a resident in my soul, Hellboy made me feel like I’d be arrested any moment for violations that were too nebulous for me to actually clarify and recognize. Hellboy, the real one, brought hellguilt, which I define as a deep sense that I am a lawbreaker but don’t know what laws I’ve broken. I’m constantly punished, but never get release and forgiveness. Yeah, that’s what Hellboy brought…hellguilt. Hellguilt is not merely unhealthy guilt, it’s a little bit of hell right here on earth. Sometimes a whole lot of hell.
Hellguilt takes the spring out of my step and the sparkle out of my eyes…it’s debilitating, demotivating, de-incentivizing, de-everything. Know what I mean?
The problem is that he’s a tenacious !*#@$! in that he still shows up from time to time and tries to climb into my life through a back window. It’s not hard for him to get in when I overschedule, I’m exhausted and running on fumes, I’m disconnected from leaning on Jesus’ arm and thinking I’m some sort of a modern messiah. He’s real quiet too. I don’t even hear him push up the creaky, old windows in the back room. I just begin to feel his presence…the old symptoms reoccur. Heaviness and all that rot, you know.
When he was in the neighborhood recently, I was trying to remember what it is that makes him take off and stay gone for long periods of time. It stumped me for a few minutes until I decided (you’re right, the Spirit was whispering to me) that I needed big medicine and deep truth. I found it walking slowly through Romans 1 and 2 until, in chapter 3, the Gospel broke through again: “But now apart from the Law the righteousness of God has been manifested, being witnessed by the Law and the Prophets, even the righteousness of God through faith in Jesus Christ for all those who believe…” (Romans 3:21-22).
“For all those who believe” in Jesus, and that includes me. I began to say to myself that there is the righteousness of God given to me. Sure, I’ve done my fair share of violations, and I felt the guilt and the eye-opening, soul-stunning reality of what I did wrong to God and others. But Jesus took my just deserts and in Him there’s release…blessed release from the burning, self-deforming hellguilt that Hellboy likes to bring on.
Righteousness—the sweet righteousness of Jesus—is on me and in me now by grace. It has been on me and in me, but I forget. I must remember not to forget. Thank you again Father, Jesus, Holy One. Freedom!
I heard the back door slam a couple of minutes ago. Hellboy just can’t stand it when I’m fixated on Jesus’ righteousness. And now I gotta get going ‘cause there’s stuff to do and people to get with. You’re right, my energy has returned…it always does when Jesus comes over.