"You know I have a problem with being way too hard on myself...Thursday night, God opened my eyes to some sin I've been in, and I was feeling absolutely disgusted with myself because I'd become the exact opposite of the person I want to be. What's the balance between conviction and condemnation? How do I forgive myself when I know that God has already forgiven me?"
"Hmmm...good question. I would make two points: 1. The idea of repentance in the Bible means "to turn around," sometimes we feel guilty about sin that we haven't completely turned our backs on. 2. If we have truly repented and we can't forgive ourselves, then we are holding ourselves to a higher standard than God. And if the Author of all things can let it go, so must I."
"Mmm. Good point. This might be more than you can tell me, but how do I let it go?"
"It's different with every person. Don't feel guilty about feeling guilty. Be happy that your conscience is working (which can't be said for everyone)! Just remind yourself that God's love restores all things."
"Thank you, brother. I so appreciate you!"
That's a piece of a conversation I had with a Reformation brother earlier tonight. Simple enough, yes? But it drove home a few points for me, things people have been telling me for quite a while now that I've heard, I just haven't understood how to put into practice.
As I sat down tonight, knowing that I was going to write generally about this, two specific verses popped in my head. Don't you love when that happens?
"There is no fear in love, but perfect love cats out fear. For fear has to do with punishment, and whoever fears has not been perfected in love. We love because he first loved us." 1 John 4:18-19
I'm still caught up in that prison cell, like the song last night mentioned (which, by the way, I have had on constant repeat). Still terrified that this time will be the time He finally gives up on me. Still believing that I'm too messed up for Him to show me grace. Still feeling like if you really knew me, you wouldn't love me, either. Forgetting everything that I know to be true about my Father because I'm so swept up by being angry at myself and being...absolutely, bone-chilling, heartbreakingly scared.
The irony of it is that I believe a boy who went back to drugs is forgiven, my friends will be shown grace for their mistakes, my family can be brought to Christ despite their current feelings about the whole idea. I'm not scared for them (well, maybe my family, in simply the fear that they will never come to know the Lord like I pray they do). I have confidence for them. What will it take for me to feel that same confidence for myself? If I can forgive others, why can I not forgive myself? If I can love others and believe that God loves them, how can I not believe in my soul that He loves me just the same? If I believe there is grace for others, how can I forget that there is grace for me, too?
As this brother said tonight, what I'm doing now, this constant bashing of my own spirit, that's me holding myself to a higher standard than God. That's me telling God my sins are bigger than He is. And that's not fair or right, to me or to God. Just like the sign I still have on my wall says, the Gospel is bigger. Always. No caveats. No corollaries.
This is what I am praying God reveals to me this year, one of the reasons that I chose Rest as my One Word for the year. I'm praying that He teaches me how to truly rest in the promises He gives me in His word. In that rest, I believe I will be able to understand how to forgive myself, because my own thoughts won't matter. Like Reafe told me yesterday, when I am close to God and know how He sees me, what everyone else says won't matter...and what I say won't matter, either.
Lord, help me to see that my chains are broken. Teach me, every single day, that I am forgiven, that I should not be afraid. Overwhelm me with Your unending grace and mercy and love, to wash out the fear that hides in the dark places of my soul. Take me to the deep places where I have no choice but to hold on to You, because I know that that is where I will finally see the depths of Your power and love for me. Thank You for loving me despite my stupidity. Thank You for holding on to me even when I let go. I am so blessed to be Your child and to be used by You for Your Kingdom in whatever way You see fit. Thank you for the broken chains. Just like the promise I made the night you saved me and I pledged my love to You in my baptism, I am done and I am Yours. I give myself every day to You, the One who loved me first, loves me most, loves me best. Forever.