I have screwed up in life; felt like a failure and certain I had made such a mess of things that not even God could love me any longer. I have been on the verge of cashing it all in, so to speak. I have beaten myself with the gavel of guilt so viciously over disasters in my life that I believed were solely due to my bad decisions I was sure any thoughts of forgiveness were no longer a possibility. Sometimes I heaped a dose of perceived “sin” onto my shoulders just for good measure; things I believed about myself that I was certain others believed as well. Things like being the bad omen in everyone’s life, that the world would be better off without me, that I was a mistake.
Ever felt that way, thought that about yourself? The truth is that many of us have at different times in our lives. If we could see people as they see themselves we would see bloodied, bruised, bedraggled, shells of humanity moving through life putting one pain-laden foot in front of the other, hoping beyond hope, the proverbial lightning bolt would fall from the sky and pierce their hearts to end the suffering. Our focus turns inward, depression overtakes, hatred of self sets in, self-talk drips with criticism and we fall into the vortex of blame and condemnation; we withdraw from life.
Sadly, we have gotten it all wrong! Our “sin”, the unforgivable screw up is not what we have done; rather it is our refusal to accept the grace and forgiveness that God freely and willingly offers, though will not cram down our throats. Free will and all – it’s ours to take, the control is within our power. Continuing to wallow in guilt, refusing the offer of grace is a slap in the face to Almighty God, and in one fell swoop negates the work of the cross. You may have heard it this way; the unforgivable sin is blasphemy of the Holy Spirit. Blasphemy simply put is insulting the Holy Spirit. Is it not an insult to reject a gift freely and willingly offered? A gift that has already been bought and paid for?
Christians are familiar with the concept of grace, but many prefer wearing the clothes of guilt over grace. Pew-sitting Christians refuse to step into grace believing it far more pious and righteous than living within the light of grace. People not as familiar with God may not truly understand the miracle of grace, and yet it is still available to whomever is willing to embrace His gift of grace.
Grace allows us to move beyond who we are at this moment with the heart-accepted knowledge that we are loved exactly as we are, not as we should be. We don’t need to be perfect or pious, we can come with dirty mouths, and lives, and thoughts, at the beginning of our journey, in the middle or even at journey’s end, and sit in the lap of a God who loves us, truly loves and accepts us.
Feeling guilty isn’t wrong. Acknowledging that we have screwed up, sinned, hurt others, made a mess of things, is necessary to accepting forgiveness and the offer of grace; that’s healthy guilt. Yes, we will feel remorse, and we should, but once we have acknowledged our transgressions, we are free to move beyond “what I have done” to what God can do. If we can make amends, all the better. Sometimes we can’t, but we can still move forward. Then comes the big step; forgiving self. Empowered with God’s forgiveness, I can forgive myself, fortified with God’s acceptance of me and my imperfections, the messiness of “me”, I can accept myself; the result is freedom from the prison of our self-created hell.
That is the miracle of grace; that while still immersed in my imperfections, the wrongs of my life, I am loved and accepted by God. No longer need I berate, burden, and bloody myself because I am not everything I want to be, because I screwed up, made a mess of things and relationships, took wrong turns in life.
Simple? Yup. Too good to be true? Nope. There are no magic words, no incantation; sincerity of heart is the only road that will get us from guilt to grace. The work is ours to do. The work of God was already done on the cross. The journey will be difficult, I cannot lie. Refocusing from berating self to realizing what God has offered is hard work. Some of us have spent years, if not a lifetime, wallowing in guilt, self-hatred and condemnation. Reaching out to God is the first step, acceptance of grace the next, and every step thereafter is reminding ourselves that we are loved and accepted exactly as we are at this moment.
The result? We stand a little taller, smile a little more, we are kinder to ourselves, begin to see ourselves through the eyes of God. In turn we are kinder to others, become more tolerant, our focus turns outward so that we can encourage others, love others as we have been loved.
Is it time for you to pull yourself out of the muck and mire of guilt, condemnation and hatred of self? Grace is being offered. Are you willing to accept His offer…..