God taught me a lesson last week about forgiveness. One of the great calling cards of Christendom has always been, "Come to Jesus and find forgiveness of sin." Hmmm...that's nice, but I think I'll come to Jesus for comfort and guidance. I don't really have a big need for forgiveness. I mean, it's nice that he died for my sins and all, but wasn't that a little extreme? Did I really need that?
If you've never felt guilty then you probably have wondered why God made such a big deal over having Jesus take the punishment for your sins. I remember as a kid being taught that I should pray prayers of confession. So I would try to think of something to confess. Sometimes I would just mutter the standby phrase "forgive me when I fail Thee." I figured that would cover whatever it was that I had done, but didn't really feel guilty about. I certainly never felt like I deserved death which is what the Bible says is the wages of sin. That was until one day when I saw myself the way God sees me....ugh! I could fool others and even fool myself, but I wasn't fooling God. He saw my heart and it wasn't pretty. After that revelation, I learned to appreciate the gift of forgiveness. But something happened recently that reminded me again of how HUGE it is to be guilt free.
Last week I heard that our friend Betty was dying. Even though I hadn't seen her in months, I thought I should do something to help. I offered to do anything that was needed and her husband graciously invited me to vacuum. I approached their house with a bit of fear and trembling, but they were gracious and kind. Matt showed me how to use the fancy vacuum system and then went upstairs to take care of Betty. I thought I should dust before I vacuumed so I started with the mantle. I picked up a picture, took one swipe...and knocked a little bird to the floor... oh no.
I was there to help and to be a comfort and I broke something. I didn't know what to do. I didn't want to bother them. I didn't want to upset them. I didn't want to add anything to what they were already dealing with. But I think most of all, I didn't want them to regret letting me come over.
So I put the little bird and its beak on a shelf... in the closet... and closed the door. I hid my sin.
Maybe I thought I would find some glue while I was cleaning and I could fix it. Or maybe I thought that no one would ever find it there and that someday I could bring some glue when I came back. Or maybe I thought it would just go away. Whatever I was thinking, it was wrong. You can hide your mistakes and your broken pieces from the rest of the world, but they don't go away and what you are left with is guilt.
I finished cleaning the house and had a wonderful visit with our friends, but it was tainted by guilt. I KNEW that I wasn't as great as other people thought I was. I knew I wasn't as great as I thought I was. The longer I kept my secret, the bigger it became until it was HUGE in my mind. I knew that they would think I was a terrible person--not just for breaking something, accidents happen--but for HIDING it. I couldn't even tell Richard what I had done because I was so ashamed.
Have you ever felt those things? Do you feel those things today when you think about the broken pieces you have hidden in your closet? Did you know you can be free from those chains? Do you know how? I knew what I had to do. I admitted my guilt via email. Whew! Just the confession felt good, but would I be forgiven?
Here is the response I got...