It was about 10 days ago that I scratched the scab off and the blood ran. I didn’t even realize the scab on my heart was there but nonetheless something rubbed up against it and knocked it off. I had read something that morning in Ann Voscamp’s book The Broken Way. She had talked about her own spiritual journey, shared some of her own brokenness and it triggered something in me. In my morning preparations to make myself presentable to the world, all of my unpresentable junk that had still been pushed down and repressed decided it was the right time to present itself whether I wanted it to or not.
Memories of mom fail moments started flooding my mind as the shower waters flooded over me. Vivid reflections of the times I’ve yelled at my children and many other parenting mistakes I had been harboring shame for came flooding to the surface. I had buried them down deep because my fragile rejected self had been devastated by my failures. Why is it that the hardest failures to take are when we feel we have failed others? I had set out to be a perfect parent and had made more mistakes than I could count and my heart was breaking. As the waters flowed over me, the waters of repentance began to flow out of me as well. It hurt. Heartache has always been harder for me to handle than physical pain. My instinct is to want to run from it, push it down.
Human instinct is to avoid pain. Yet I know I need to own this pain, to face it and let the healing come. I’m blinded by it in in that moment and all I know to do is to cry out to God in my repentance. I’m desperate for grace…desperate for a way to make it right, but in that moment I know I can’t turn back the hands of time, so I pray, “God, forgive me. Forgive me for those times when I was absolutely at the end of myself and should have cried out to you. Forgive me for putting more faith in books that often didn’t have the answers I sought. Forgive me for not TRUSTING you to lead me on the right path. Forgive me for my self-reliance that has hurt those I care most about. If there is any healing that needs to occur for any wounds I inflicted, please heal it Lord.” And I know, because God has been showing me my broken places and revealing His heart, that He forgives me yet something still hurts and I don’t know how to make the hurt go away.
As I exit the shower, Jason Upton’s song Table (Live) is playing. It’s literally the first time I have heard it. I just bought the Glimpse (Live) CD a few days before. Apparently I had missed the first part of the song. I think it was playing while I was in the shower but I couldn’t hear it over the water. But the Holy Spirit had been working even when I couldn’t hear it and when I stepped out the words I heard were:
“The pure in heart will see God. I want to be like you Lord. I want to be like you. Sometimes it’s hard, you know, to actually hear the words, you’re forgiven. I want you to think of the worst things you’ve ever done. Maybe you still hold it. Maybe it keeps you up at night. I know it’s crazy but sometimes we can be Christians a long time and never hear the words “I forgive you”. We can pray and repent and not wait around to hear God say I forgive you.”
The song then went on to say, “the Lord declares over you, I forgive you. I choose to forgive you. I choose to let you go. I choose to forgive you.” Let me tell you what – I was a weeping sobbing, grateful mess when I got through that song and that hurt was gone!
Jesus calls us to forgive. Jesus didn’t wait for us to grovel on the ground. He just said it. Father forgive them. Well, I have to say, forgiveness is the most amazing gift! We all need it so desperately. We all desperately need a way to make right what the hands of time won’t allow us to go back and undo. And the only way we can is to cry out in true repentance and ask for forgiveness. And how can we not now give that gift to others? The words of the song continued to pierce my heart:
“Forgiveness is like the big power tiller. It’s like the thing that breaks up this fallow, hard ground…We don’t forgive because people deserve it. We forgive so we can see again.”
Like Jesus, we can choose to forgive. We choose to forgive….even forgive ourselves and accept the forgiveness God gives.
It wasn’t an accident that everything happened the way it did for me 10 days ago. I was in the shower when the “spiritual scab” came off. As the literal water washed me clean, God’s spiritual water of forgiveness washed me clean on the inside. And what about the coincidental timing of stepping out right as I pray my prayer asking for forgiveness, to hear Upton proclaim, “we can pray and repent and not wait around to hear God say ‘I forgive you’.” And then “the Lord declares over you, I forgive you.” You can’t make this stuff up. I literally stepped out from the old to a squeaky clean new!
I can’t go back to that place…that prison. Yet, that is precisely where I will end up if I don’t remember God’s gift of forgiveness to me and make the choice to forgive others. Matthew 18:32-32 makes a very critical point. We cannot afford to not forgive. Our justification of holding onto unforgiveness and bitterness are the very things that lead to our imprisonment and torture. When we are forgiven so much by our heavenly father and refuse to give others we are “handed over to the jailers to be tortured, until he should pay back all he owed. This is how my heavenly Father will treat each of you unless you forgive your brother or sister from your heart.”
It’s hard sometimes, truly it is. It’s a choice, but we can cry out to our Father and through Him we can achieve what seems impossible in the natural. We can take the gift and we can give the gift, and how can we leave a gift this good just sitting there unopened?
Please take a moment to listen to the Table song by Jason Upton and my prayer is that it will bless you the way it blessed me!
Verses for Meditation
Matthew 18:21-35 (NIV) –
The Parable of the Unmerciful Servant
21 Then Peter came to Jesus and asked, “Lord, how many times shall I forgive my brother or sister who sins against me? Up to seven times?”
22 Jesus answered, “I tell you, not seven times, but seventy-seven times.[a]
23 “Therefore, the kingdom of heaven is like a king who wanted to settle accounts with his servants. 24 As he began the settlement, a man who owed him ten thousand bags of gold[b] was brought to him. 25 Since he was not able to pay, the master ordered that he and his wife and his children and all that he had be sold to repay the debt.
26 “At this the servant fell on his knees before him. ‘Be patient with me,’ he begged, ‘and I will pay back everything.’ 27 The servant’s master took pity on him, canceled the debt and let him go.
28 “But when that servant went out, he found one of his fellow servants who owed him a hundred silver coins.[c] He grabbed him and began to choke him. ‘Pay back what you owe me!’ he demanded.
29 “His fellow servant fell to his knees and begged him, ‘Be patient with me, and I will pay it back.’
30 “But he refused. Instead, he went off and had the man thrown into prison until he could pay the debt. 31 When the other servants saw what had happened, they were outraged and went and told their master everything that had happened.
32 “Then the master called the servant in. ‘You wicked servant,’ he said, ‘I canceled all that debt of yours because you begged me to. 33 Shouldn’t you have had mercy on your fellow servant just as I had on you?’ 34 In anger his master handed him over to the jailers to be tortured, until he should pay back all he owed.
35 “This is how my heavenly Father will treat each of you unless you forgive your brother or sister from your heart.”
Isaiah 42:22 (NIV) –
22 But this is a people plundered and looted,
all of them trapped in pits
or hidden away in prisons.
They have become plunder,
with no one to rescue them;
they have been made loot,
with no one to say, “Send them back.”