Today, I’m thinking about forgiveness. Not forgiveness for other people, but forgiveness for yourself.
To me, forgiving myself has always been my number one stumbling block. I have no problem forgiving other people for failing me, or God, or other people. Call it a self-esteemissue, or whatever, but I didn’t used to set the
bar all that high for my fellow human beings, so when they failed, I almost just expected it. Satan hates us all, and he’s been doing his job a lot longer than any of us have been alive. It would be embarrassing for him if he wasn’t a master at it by now! And I know how much Jesus loves all of us, so it was with heart-felt sincerity that I would lend a hand to lift my brothers and sisters up, dust them off, and encourage them to keep on trucking down their proverbial road.
But that same courtesy just didn’t apply to myself, as I felt that I knew what I was supposed to be doing, feeling, saying…but when I didn’t fulfill whatever it was I thought God wanted of me, I would plunge into a self-hatred, despairing emotional valley, and lick my wounds for days down there. And it was in one of these dark little valleys that Jesus stepped in and shone His light on what was really happening. And you know, He only had to say one word to me for it all to become crystal clear — Pride.
You see, somehow I had elevated myself over other people by thinking that while they were doomed to fail, and Jesus’s sacrifice was complete and perfect for them, somehow God expected more from me…why? Because I was better? Because I was special? And then I would fail and fail and fail. I’d hide away in my little pity party, refusing to be comforted, refusing to answer my God’s voice. And by hiding down in my valley, feeling sorry for myself, I was telling Jesus, “Hey, thanks for dying on the cross and all, but Your sacrifice just wasn’t good enough to cover my sins.” What a big, fat lie from satan, and he snuck it past my ever vigilant brain quite easily.
I deal with my shortcomings differently now, by focusing on how Jesus taught us to pray. I am always paying attention to those tiny little voices that try to convince me that I have something to be proud of…pride is too easily introduced to me, so I pay very close attention to anything that would let satan slip that one past my guards. And when I pray, I embrace the humility of being an imperfect child of God, and then forgive myself, not giving it more importance than any other sin should be given. Jesus was pretty clear in His Word, even our good works are like dirty rags to God. Nothing to be all that proud of down here… 🙂
So, today, I’m starting out my day by asking God’s forgiveness for my ever-present failings, and then I’m forgiving myself right after, and I’m going to start my day with a fresh slate — both in God’s eyes, and my own.
Hope everyone has the best day of their lives today!
Today I wrote this What’s In A Name? at 20 Lines A Day about how I insulted a biker… 🙂
You guys remember my best friend Audra, right? Well, back when we were children, we attended a non-denominational church. It was nothing for us to see people dancing in the aisles, or someone speaking in tongues, or people singing with their hands in the air. For me, it was just the normal way people worshiped God. But the little prophetic phrase, “I have a Word from the Lord for you…” crossed over into my life in a really bizarre way. This story won’t work without the back-up, so please bear with me…
There were times when I would casually wonder if people were seriously being “Moved By God to Tell You …”, but it was always in an abstract, vague way. The truth was, how would I really know? I think that 90% of the people who I heard these words come out of their mouths, sincerely had good motives, and thought they had heard a word from God. And most of the time, what was said was somewhat nebulous, and sounded more like
a quote from the bible. It was like a horoscope in the newspaper — so vague it could be applied to almost any situation. To me, real prophecy has to be specific, because there are some specific rules about what happens to the ‘prophet’ who’s words don’t come true…but that discussion is for another day.
But, as I’ve mentioned before, I went looking for God at the age of 8, and by 11, I had read, and understood the bible. I studied that thing endlessly, and it’s words were soothing to my grieved soul. I had already learned to accept or reject what adults were teaching me, based on my understandings of what I had studied. I didn’t pray 15 minutes in the morning, read 10 minutes of my bible, then start my day. I talked (and still do) to God all day long….Chatting, if you will. The bible said He wanted us to have a relationship, so that’s how I treated my spiritual life. Like a relationship, not a job. And anyone who has ever had any sort of relationship knows, there is a uniqueness in how two people communicate with each other. Audra and I communicate differently with each other than Chef and I communicate…see the difference?
For the most part, kind people would occasionally deliver Specific Words of God to me, and I sincerely can’t remember most of them, because they didn’t sound like the Voice in my relationship. I always said thank you; usually hugged the person. And then went off to find my friends. No harm, no foul.
I was a late bloomer. For instance, Audra knew what sex was before kindergarten, and she had her first official little boyfriend at the age of 5. He was in her kindergarten class, and she still remembers his name to this day.
I, on the other hand, found out about the birds and the bees from a dirty joke in front of my entire 5th grade class at the embarrassing age of 10. My mom just forgot to have the “talk” with me. By the time I was 10, she assumed I had found out about it from someone else, so she was off the hook. ( That scarred me for life, just so you know.)
So, I was almost 12 when the beginnings of love begin to stir in my heart. As was my way with new emotions, I approached this little situation silently, with a proper amount of caution. I wasn’t in any hurry to be rejected by My First Love, and that is what I tended to believe would always happen to me when I really cared about someone. I was happy to love him from afar, knowing his ignorance would shield me from vulnerability. And it was a little more complicated for me because even though we moved a lot, we always ended up right back here in this church. Odds were good that I was going to see this guy over and over again. Mistakes were not an option.
I had known this boy since we were maybe 6 or 7 years old. I believe he was a year older than me, so for most of my relationship with him, I was the unwelcome tag-along. More sister-ish than anything.
Another thing was that a church like ours wasn’t a good environment for me to have a crush in. Shockingly, God always seemed to be telling our secrets to other people! This wasn’t a secret I wanted Joe, or anyone else for that matter, to ever find out. I just liked crushing on him from afar. I hadn’t planned anything else out yet.
Enter: Sandy. This lady wasn’t actually a regular member of our church, but her mom was. A few times a year, she’d come to a service or two, but I never had pegged her as the murderer of my first crush.
It was a Perfect Storm moment. I was standing in a group of church teens outside in a closed courtyard with Rock Band Quality acoustics, with Joe standing in the group as well, minding my own business and enjoying a little Joe-time, when Sandy walks up to the circle I was standing in and announces, “God gave me a Word for You!” ..I can still hear the echoes bouncing off the walls, drawing every eye to me….I made some polite gesture, and she said in her great, big loud voice, “God says that you are going to marry Joe…yes, you, Joe…and you’re going to have three kids.”
She was a Crush Murderer. I remember making eye-contact, probably for the first time in my whole life, with Joe, and I could see he was equally horrified. We weren’t even teenagers yet. I died a little inside.
Everything changed.Our whole dynamic was different, as if we were each secretly afraid that this supposed prophecy would come true..It was like God Himself had set me up for the rejection I was always secretly fearing.
Obviously, it wasn’t a Word from God. I didn’t marry Joe. In fact, I can’t remember ever interacting with him again when those words didn’t laugh at me from somewhere in the back of my brain.
But from the death of my first crush, I was able to learn a couple of things. The first is that if you really have a relationship with God, you’ll recognize His Voice. God has never given me random insights into my future for no real reason at all. And He certainly doesn’t whisper other people’s futures to me either. Real prophets had to make sure they were hearing God’s Voice and not their own well-intentioned voices, because their very lives depended on it coming true. We could stand a little more of that these days…
Don’t be careless with the words, “the Lord told me to tell you..” or “I have a Word of the Lord for you”. In my own life, God has only used two people, one who was a random stranger, to get a message to me, and it was a last resort for Him, if you will.
Lastly, I learned not have crushes on any of the boys in that church…God was telling people my secrets!!