Sunday Sermon #5: But Have You Forgiven Yourself, Tho?

God’s forgiveness is super free. Like, it is a gift given in the most sacrificial way—His life for yours, your value immeasurable using things. Only His life measured up to the price to be paid for you. A grimy, torturous affair, His death on the cross detailed just how far out He would go to have you…if you’d receive Him. Superfluous, ridiculous forgiveness filled with the promise that He’d cast your sins away from you as far as the east is from the west.

People, unfortunately, are not so kind.

We wear our unforgiveness like the shields police officers wear, the long arm of the law and personal justice hardening around us like the callouses in our palms that come from gripping things too hard for too long. We embrace the wrongs flung at us, the coldness of it seeping into our postures until we are upright and self righteous af, nothing and no-one capable of bending us in mercy or softening us in grace. Wrong is wrong and once wrong is always wrong til death comes and we can show our affections at the sight of your interment. We were right, even as that rightness has made us sad and lonely and longing for your touch.

Why is it that we hold fast to such ugliness when it never yields the fruit we’d like to eat? Why do we suspend love inside prideful rejection of the very thing we pray for and believe in from God: full forgiveness of our wrongdoings, and second chances?

Because we never forgive ourselves.

We never forgive ourselves our bad judgments and mistakes. We replay unto self fulfilling prophecy the missteps of our own lives, the bad calls and terrible choices and all out fuck ups we ourselves have stumbled through. We live in silent, secret shame about what we have done wrong, harm we have caused, bad seeds we planted, and dangerous turns in the road we have travelled to near ruin.

In Mark 12:31, Jesus declared that we ought to love our neighbors as we love ourselves. And there it is. The reason we wrap ourselves in the bitter sack of never letting go of what has been done to us: we have not loved ourselves enough to forgive ourselves.

It is so easy to accept the forgiveness of an unseen entity. We believe God is there and yet our rational mind can just as easily suppose that God is not.That furtive, easily accepted forgiveness doesn’t require much—just that we believe Jesus is Christ and we verbally say so. And BAM. Ok. Forgiven. Yet how much more telling the tale of looking at ourselves with that same imagined loving eye and declaring the very same forgiveness to the person we see in the mirror, a visible scourge, whose wrong is tangible, readily, easily revisited as we consider the image looking back at us.

I don’t doubt that some of us rarely look ourselves in the eyes each day, focusing on distracting physical things like makeup and neckties and lotions and colognes. We never squarely address our shame, choosing to gloss over the collection of humiliations we have hidden deep within our psyches.

The other day, I reckoned with my own shame. I have made some ugly choices in the past, and while I understood that God had forgiven me my indiscretions, I had been lying there in the mess of them. I refused to move, so wrapped up in the secret shame of it I had become. I was rigid with fear—that I’d make the same mistakes, that I’d forever be that person who did that terrible thing—that I had utterly closed off myself and my life trying to make amends. I didn’t know how to get up from it. So I lay there wallowing in it doing a never ending penance that wasn’t even accepted by those I’d aggrieved.

Once Jesus was ministering inside a packed house. Four men carried their crippled friend (on his personal stretcher) onto the roof and pulled it up, lowering him on his bed down in front of where Jesus sat teaching. Jesus told the man, “Your sins are forgiven. Pick up your bed and walk.”

Do you see it?

God had forgiven me, too. And just like Jesus had told this crippled man to get up, He was giving me permission to get up, too. But the real revelation? Jesus told the guy to take his bed with him. The thing that held the man captive became a physical token of his testimony of an encounter with God’s forgiveness. He only used it from that day on to show people where God had brought him from.

See, the screw ups of your life, when touched by the mercy of God, stop having the power to condemn you. Instead they become a personal proof positive of how God can change you. How God can deliver you from the thing that people say you will always be. Your bed becomes evidence of your blessing. And when you carry it instead of it holding you, that bed reminds you of how forgiveness heals—and you learn to let go and forgive others. You know, loving others the way you love yourself.

God has forgiven you. Pick up Forgiveness and move forward.

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