I am: Forgiven
Remember that story I told about Guy & Libby in “Who Am I (Part 2)”? Well, I left out something important. Something that haunted me for years after the orange throwing event itself.
Let me recap the scene for you. I was in the front yard picking up the rotting fruit that fell incessantly from four fruit trees. I hated that job, but in hind sight it was a small price to pay for the homemade apricot jam and plum syrup that my mom would make and can for us to enjoy all year-long. Anyways, along came two kids from down the block and what do my eyes observe? Without even so much as a questioning glance for permission, those two kids reached up and picked a few apples off the tree that was growing about 5 feet next to the sidewalk. Even though I personally hated those small green apples (except when they were in a pie), I was enraged! As enraged as an eight year old girl can be! And so without a second thought, I picked up a few oranges from up off the grass and threw them as hard as I could. Miraculously, even though it was thrown by me and from the other end of the driveway, one of them landed smack in the middle of Libby’s back. It had to hurt like the dickens!
Unfortunately, the drama doesn’t end there. In response, Guy (her older brother, who was probably about my age and size) immediately and with the precision of a sharp-shooter landed a firm green apple dead-center in my chest. It near knocked the wind out of me! As soon as I recovered from the shock of the assault, I immediately started crying and ran inside the house to tell of the atrocious sin that had been committed against me.
Did I mention that I am the youngest of seven children? With a span of 14 years between us, the order is boy, girl, boy, boy, girl, girl, girl. As fate would have it, two of my brothers were home at the time, and immediately rushed to learn what all my crying was about. No sooner did I get the words out of my mouth that Guy from 3 houses down had thrown an apple at me, then they took off racing down the street to catch that kid and teach him a thing or two about messing with their baby sister.
I don’t recall if I ever asked about Guy’s fate. If I did, I have forgotten my brothers response (but I’m certain they would have scared the pants off that skinny little kid because my brothers were at least 3 feet taller and 8 years older). But what I have never forgotten was the intense shame I felt over my own behavior that day. You see, I never told my family that I had actually thrown the first fruit. I was the instigator, and I deserved that apple in the chest as a fitting punishment for my selfish and atrocious behavior. Yet instead of owning up to it, I kept silent and let my brothers deal out undeserved punishment to poor little Guy and Libby, while I gloried in the sympathies of my family for pains suffered. By nightfall, the short-term glory of the moment had given way to a deep and sinking feeling in the pit of my stomach. When I crawled in bed that night to say my prayers, I told Jesus I was sorry and asked him to forgive me. I asked him to forgive me the following day too, and the one after that, and the one after that. My guilt seemed to follow me everywhere and I felt terrible – but terrible not enough to ‘out’ myself. That would have been too embarrassing. So I tried rationalizing it, but that knot in the middle of my stomach wouldn’t go away. As the days turned into weeks, and the weeks into months, I simply tried to forget. Everyone else had, but I couldn’t.
As months turned into years, I tried doing good deeds to show my remorse and ease my conscience. But my conscience would not be appeased.
When I kept silent, my bones wasted away through my groaning all day long. For day and night your hand was heavy upon me; my strength was sapped as in the heat of summer. – Psalm 32:3-4
I was in my early teens when I finally broke down and told my mother what I had done, long after Guy & Libby had moved away. Of course, she had no memory whatsoever of that day, despite my detailed play-by-play narration of the event. Instead, she wisely responded by asking me if I confessed it and asked Jesus to forgive me. When I told her I had, she suggested I trust God to do what he promised to do, forgive. Not because I had earned it, but simply because he loved me.
I’ve lied. I’ve cheated. I’ve stolen. I’ve intentionally cut people to the bone with viciously cruel words. I’ve been unfaithful to promises made. I’ve gossiped about others while hypocritically ignoring the log in my own eye. I’ve manipulated situations to my own advantage at the expense of another’s. I’ve held long-term wrestling matches with addictive behaviors and most of what I haven’t done physically, I’ve done mentally or emotionally. All of these things I’ve done over and over and over again - some as recently as yesterday.
Before you click that “unsubscribe” button, please permit me to invite you to some honest self-examination. Do you have any skeletons hidden in your closet? Have you, like David (and me too) felt your ‘bones wasting away’ with grief over what you’ve done – or perhaps didn’t do but should have?
The dictionary defines forgiveness as (1) pardon for or remission of an offense, debt, etc.; absolved (2) release from all claim on account of a debt, obligation, etc. (3) pardon. But those are big words for an eight (or even a 68) year old to get her head around, and so I boiled it down to a simple but flawed theology. I understood the part that Jesus died on the cross in order to pay for (pardon) the BIG sin of mankind (i.e. Adam and Eve) because of his great love for us. But when it came to the every day stuff – like lying, cheating, and orange throwing – well, for that stuff we needed to be really sorry first, and if we ‘repended’ good enough – Jesus would forgive us. In his book SUN STAND STILL, Steven Furtick describes it like this.
I’ve not sure what comes to mind when you think of repentance. Probably something along the lines of groveling, beating yourself up, and feeling really, really, really bad about what you’ve done wrong.
For a very long time, that was my definition of repentance and judging by the dozens of guilt weary people I’ve met along the way of my Christian journey, I have not been alone in my thinking. Thankfully, that is not what repentance means. Theologically speaking, to repent is to ‘change your mind’. To ‘do a 180′ and turn around from the direction you have been heading (i.e. the wrong way) and now head in the opposite direction (i.e. the right way). Psalm 32:5 (Amplified version) describes it as honestly and completely telling God what we have done, “till all is told“. Then, as Steven Furtick says, we are to “align [our]thoughts with the thoughts of God. To get on his wavelength and embrace his plan”.
It took me years to finally “tell all” about the orange-throwing incident. What a waste! Unfortunately, I’ve been just as reluctant to come clean about a lot of other stuff as well. Something in me keeps trying to fix myself, myself. HA! Talk about a time waster!!! But when I DO come clean with God, telling every last detail – holding nothing back (as if I could actually keep a secret from Him anyways!), and then conforming my thoughts to align with his thoughts on the subject – WOW! What freedom!
There is so much more to say about the mystery of being forgiven by God that this is going to be at least a 2-parter. Until the next post, I invite you to thoughtfully consider the following Psalm. Maybe even read it in a few different Bible translations (www.Biblegateway.com is an excellent resource for that).
In what ways has your experience been like Davids?
How do you define repentance?
Do you believe God is willing to forgive all (types of) confessed sin from a repentant heart?
Feel free to share your comments or questions and I’ll do my best to respond in the next post.
Until then, be blessed!
[A Psalm of David.] A skillful song, or a didactic or reflective poem.
1BLESSED (HAPPY, fortunate, to be envied) is he who has forgiveness of his transgression continually exercised upon him, whose sin is covered.
2Blessed (happy, fortunate, to be envied) is the man to whom the Lord imputes no iniquity and in whose spirit there is no deceit.
3When I kept silence [before I confessed], my bones wasted away through my groaning all the day long.
4For day and night Your hand [of displeasure] was heavy upon me; my moisture was turned into the drought of summer. Selah [pause, and calmly think of that]!
5I acknowledged my sin to You, and my iniquity I did not hide. I said, I will confess my transgressions to the Lord [continually unfolding the past till all is told]–then You [instantly] forgave me the guilt and iniquity of my sin. Selah [pause, and calmly think of that]!
6For this [forgiveness] let everyone who is godly pray–pray to You in a time when You may be found; surely when the great waters [of trial] overflow, they shall not reach [the spirit in] him.
7You are a hiding place for me; You, Lord, preserve me from trouble, You surround me with songs and shouts of deliverance. Selah [pause, and calmly think of that]!
8I [the Lord] will instruct you and teach you in the way you should go; I will counsel you with My eye upon you.
9Be not like the horse or the mule, which lack understanding, which must have their mouths held firm with bit and bridle, or else they will not come with you.
10Many are the sorrows of the wicked, but he who trusts in, relies on, and confidently leans on the Lord shall be compassed about with mercy and with loving-kindness.
11Be glad in the Lord and rejoice, you [uncompromisingly] righteous [you who are upright and in right standing with Him]; shout for joy, all you upright in heart!