When I was younger the idea of there being difficulty forgiving oneself seemed a bit strange. Usually the only people I worried about forgiving me were the people I had hurt or who had been privy to my sin. If they forgave and forgot I was off the hook and I could leave the memory and burden of that wrongdoing far behind. I knew, more importantly, that God forgave me. After all, it was why He had sent His son to die on the cross for us, a sinful people. (Colossians 1:13-14 - ...who has rescued us from the domain of darkness and transferred us to the Kingdom of the Son he loves, in whom we have the redemption, the forgiveness of sins...)
When I got older I didn't even realize a burden on my shoulders slowly began to grow. A list in my head of all the things I had done, mistakes I had made. I began to label certain things as "un-forgivable" and so I'd hang onto them. These things became my identity. I wore them like a piece of clothing everywhere I went.
After foolish mistakes in my teen years and being in a relationship for over a year with it coming to an end, my burden grew even heavier. I thought back to all the ways I had failed and instead of forgiving myself as God forgave me, I began to let the failures shape how I saw myself. Not as "Jennifer, God's daughter, saved by His grace and forgiven," but as "Jennifer, doer of a million unforgivable mistakes." It felt like an ever increasing weight growing heaver with every failure and shortcoming.
I compared myself to other people who seemed so good. I felt like such an ugly young woman in comparison to them. They seemed to effortlessly radiate joy and goodness by the work of God in them yet I felt like I could never be like that. Those people didn't have the character flaws I had. Pride, selfishness, jealousy, lust, bad days, etc. Those people had somehow been gifted with perfection in every area.
Inside I had become beaten down, bent over with guilt. I lost all confidence in myself with other people. How could anyone be around a person like me? Couldn't they see each sin I had committed written all over my face? That's all I saw when I looked in the mirror. It felt good to stand in the place of God and condemn myself. I felt it's what I deserved.
It felt impossible to forgive myself as I knew God had forgiven me. Even though I had all of the knowledge, I could not believe it. Where did I start? When did the knowledge become practice? I had practiced preaching lies to myself and listening to lies from Satan for so long that I didn't know how to undo my doubt and self condemnation. I wanted to forgive myself. I didn't want to feel the stab of shame and regret when I thought back to each mistake. I wanted to feel confidence in God's grace that forgave and washed us clean. I felt anything but clean.
I wanted to fill up and distract from the emptiness I felt in my very soul. I thought an earthly relationship would be the answer to it all. Maybe it would make me feel worth something. I wanted to chase after something to give me temporary relief. But I knew in my heart, no earthly thing could fill me up. God alone was the answer. Earthly things, when we put our trust in them, are like shifting sand. (Matthew 7:25 - The rain came down, the streams rose, and the winds blew and beat against that house; yet it did not fall, because it had it's foundation on the rock.) God is the only one who is never failing, never shifting, constant and unchanging. He is faithful, loving, patient and wise. He loves us perfectly like no one and nothing else can.
Slowly the truth in this began to sink in to my weary heart. Like a balm, it healed. My prayers no longer felt useless. I knew that God heard me. He heard every cry from my heart and knew all the pain that weighed me down. I was not just a voice among the millions, my prayer was a sweet song to my Savior. His sweet voice, his sweet truth, began to shape my heart and shape the way I saw myself and all of my mistakes.
My heart began to overflow with thankfulness for all of the things he brought me through. They had given me a vision for His goodness, His mercy. I saw so clearly who God was. He was not far away, He was so close. When he said he forgave, He really did. It was not, is not my job to forgive myself. I did not have to do penance by carrying around shame and regret til I felt I had paid the sufficient price. Jesus had already done that. My burden slipped off of my shoulders in front of the cross.
But though I know these truths, I still struggle. I still wrestle with believing this truth. When the devil whispers lies I struggle with succumbing to letting them rest in my heart and take up residence. But I have a weapon to fight back. I have the truth to wage war and win. (Ephesians 6:12)
1 John 1:7
"But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus his Son cleanses us from all sin."
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