Friday, February 9, 2018

Catch up, please!

O Lord, you are so good and kind, so ready to forgive, so full of mercy for all who ask your aid. (Psalm 86:5 TLB)
I wanted to take just a few moments to remind each of us of the importance of forgiveness. It isn't that we need forgiveness sometimes as much as we need to forgive ourselves for some misguided step we took. We somehow understand that God forgives us - by our asking / seeking his forgiveness. We have some level of understanding that the forgiveness we receive is based solely upon the actions of another on our behalf - Christ's actions on the cross. We get that we don't deserve it, but that it is freely given. We also comprehend to some degree that it is no longer an offense remembered by God - he wipes the slate clean. Yet, somehow we don't always believe we should forgive ourselves and move on. We get anchored to our failure and spend a great deal of time just kicking ourselves in the seat of our pants because we made those unwise choices! One question - if God isn't kicking us, what makes us think we should be?
Memory is often the hardest part of forgiveness - because we remember what we did and sometimes we even have the insight into 'why' we did it. The mystery of grace is that what matters is that we are restored to the 'condition' of heart that is as if we had never done the misdeed in the first place. The mystery of the memory is that we have a hard time changing the memory that is anchored to that misdeed. Perhaps what we need is for God to help us apply grace to our thoughts, as well! If we are fortunate enough to have insight into 'why' we took the steps in the wrong direction, then we also know how to create safeguards to ensure we don't take those same steps again. Handrails are on stairways because missed steps can bring catastrophic results! 
Forgiveness is to involve both the actions of Christ on our behalf - grace - and our part is in the willingness to let go of the guilt or shame associated with that action deep within our minds. Guilt and shame are not 'things' - they are emotions and emotions get 'tied' to every action we taken or that is taken against us in life. Guilt is one of those emotions we can take to the extreme. We find it harder and harder to escape that which we take to the extreme! Stretch a rubber band to the limits of the band's strength and what happens? It snaps! Stretch our emotions to the point of the extreme and we just get snagged in the repeated memories of those emotions.
If God is full of mercy and 'at the ready' to forgive when we ask, why are we stopping short of just having the 'sin' wiped away? Why aren't we asking God for the grace to move beyond the painful memory of guilt and shame, as well? Why aren't we asking him to help us recount his goodness and faithfulness to forgive, shutting down every thought that tells us we aren't good enough to be forgiven? I think it is because we count on our emotions to 'guide' us more than we believe we do! We want to 'feel' better, but there is a negative feeling associated with guilt and shame - a 'feeling' we sense we cannot easily escape. Maybe we begin by asking God to help us not count on the 'feeling' as much as we count on the 'fact' of his forgiveness. In time, feelings catch up with what faith believes! Just sayin!