Eighteen years ago I made some decisions – not necessarily all ones that I am proud of and some that have made a lasting impression. I like to think that if I’d known then what I know now – about life, myself and more importantly about God – those decisions would have been different. But such is the beauty of hindsight, and experience.
Those who have followed my blog will see that my main concerns are with God, redemption, and forgiveness. We live in a fallen world where many are broken and need our compassion. That isn’t a justification for decisions made – Paul makes the point in Romans 6: “What shall we say, then? Shall we go on sinning so that grace may increase? By no means! We are those who have died to sin; how can we live in it any longer?” (verses 1-2 NIV.) Which is a constant dilemma (see my earlier post https://francesgabriel75.wordpress.com/2013/05/30/judgement-and-walking-in-anothers-shoes/) ….!
But forgiving (or not judging) others is one thing. Forgiving yourself is completely different.
Around this time, I went to an Anglican church much frequented by students, middle of the road (not overly charismatic, which pretty much described me back then and still. As an aside, I thank God that I have been able to experience different ‘limbs’ of the church and to know that whatever our denominational differences, we are still one body!) But I wasn’t one for visions or to confidently ascribe God’s authority to my inner thoughts.
However I can vividly remember one time after a service in which I had played and sung as part of the music group. I had gone through a long journey of repentance, grief and healing but still felt condemned, guilty, not worthy of being there. Then I can remember that I could see in my mind a crown of thorns and God’s voice telling me that I was in effect cramming this crown of thorns down on my own head – and it was not mine to wear. Jesus had worn this crown and I could not and need not take this from Him.
“Who will bring any charge against those whom God has chosen? It is God who justifies. Who then is the one who condemns? No one. Christ Jesus who died—more than that, who was raised to life—is at the right hand of God and is also interceding for us” (Romans 8 v 33-34.) Thank God – when we fail (as we will), Jesus is still there interceding for us and giving us the strength to say sorry, pick ourselves up and try again.
More importantly, where there is genuine repentance, the slate is wiped clean. We do not need to pull this crown of thorn onto our heads because “as far as the east is from the west, so far has he removed our transgressions from us” (Psalm 103 v 12.)
The little voice that asks whether this is true – can we really be forgiven for THAT? – is doubting God’s truth and His goodness – and isn’t from God. Of course, where we have never really truly acknowledged, or faced up to our own skeletons – in those cases it may be the Holy Spirit prompting us to throw ourselves on God’s mercy, and find His everlasting arms already open. The third and fourth verses of an old hymn, ‘Before the Throne of God Above’ (lyrics by Charitie Lees Smith Bancroft, 1841-1892) and beautifully arranged in a modern version (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jBZ6foSwNB0), has it like this:
When Satan tempts me to despair
And tells me of the guilt within,
Upward I look and see Him there
Who made an end of all my sin.
Made an end of all my sin.
Because the sinless Saviour died
My sinful soul is counted free.
For God the just is satisfied
To look on Him and pardon me.
This may take time. We may have to hand back the crown over and over again. But I pray that anyone carrying this burden today will be able to lay it down at Jesus’ feet and leave it there. However many times this needs to happen.
(All Bible verses taken from NIV. Picture credit – http://clairearmstrong.wordpress.com/tag/lent/)