I don’t think this is a magical hard and fast rule, but it repeatedly seems to be true for my life, and therefore I want to talk about it.
First, sin hurts. It hurts a lot. I hate it. Being real, I always struggle with hating myself when it happens. Which is just more sin on top of sin. And I know all the answers. I know the truth. If anyone I love, or even like, or even tolerate, or even don’t really like all the much (be honest, we all know some people who fit into that category) came to me and confessed to me of being broken over the same exact sin I was broken over, without missing a beat I’d tell them (and mean it) all the truth. “No sin is greater than any other.” “Jesus already died for this.” “You are forgiven.” “God knew. He’s not surprised.” “You are free.” “There is no self condemnation for those is Christ.” Etc. Etc. Etc. But when it comes to me talking to me, I make exceptions. “But this sin IS worse.” “No, I AM defined by this, this is who I am.” “I disappointed God.” “No, I’m not holy. I can’t be holy and do THIS.”
So onto my second point, for me self condemnation is often easier than forgiving myself in the midst of dealing with that hurt. For me, the new mercies we’re promised as believers, aren’t something I can even be aware of when I’m stuck in the dark self condemnation place. They seemingly aren’t there and seem to not come in that dark place (but I think they were there all along – prideful self condemnation just prevents their recognition). But when we (I) finally are able to forgive ourselves, the blinders are taken off and new mercies seem abundant.
After three days of asking God for forgiveness over and over again, mixed in with many moments of telling Him I don’t deserve forgiveness and wish that He’d give up on me (I don’t mean that, but I feel it, you know?), I finally forced myself to speak the same truth to me that I would to my people. I added a few more tears to the buckets I’d cried over the last days, and then just forced it, 3rd person style. It was hard and I hated it. For the grand finale of this dramatic moment, I looked myself in the eyes in the mirror and said, “I forgive you.” And then of course, cried some more. But when I heard me tell me (I do realize I sound like a crazy person right now, but whatevs) that I was forgiven, for the first time in several days I felt like I was going to be okay. And just like that I was made aware of all the new mercies surrounding me that I thought I had been deprived of that morning and the day before.
It’s not magic. It’s not a “rule” and I have nothing to back up my theory. But I do know these two things:
1. IT IS NOT WORTH IT. I promise, the sin you miss, the sin you’re contemplating, the sin your dabbling with and getting entangled with, the sin you are planning, the sin you want to stop fighting against, IT IS NOT WORTH IT. It’s not. It’s not worth the pain. It’s not worth knowing you momentarily decided that your enticing sin is better than Jesus only to promptly be reminded that it’s not and broken over the fact that you’d even consider it was.
2. Self condemnation is not okay! It’s not holy. It’s just as unholy and sinful as the sin that lead you there. It’s dark and lonely and isolating and FULL OF LIES! It’s all a lie. It really is. Shame and self condemnation are not where we should go. And if you’re like me and don’t know how to not go there, it’s definitely not where we should stay. GET OUT!
I’m not okay. But I am okay. And so are you. And not for any other reason than Jesus. So, I’m thankful for a God who for some crazy reason chose to pay the ultimate price for my life (and yours) knowing all the sinful things I’d do. But I’m also thankful for being able to see new mercies without the self condemnation blinders. New mercies in the form of Chick-Fil-A breakfast, cute baby visitors at work, the unconditional love and patience of friends, Apple Music letting me listen to all the old Taylor Swift albums I lost, and comforting encouragement in the form of a Taylor Swift song meant just for me, a 32 year single girl still trying to figure out how to live life well and fight for the things that matter and against the things that don’t, that I shall now quote:
“I guess you really did it this time. Left yourself in your warpath. Lost your balance on a tightrope. Lost your mind tryin’ to get it back.
It’s alright, just wait and see. Your string of lights is still bright to me. Oh, who you are is not where you’ve been. You’re still an innocent.
Did some things you can’t speak of. But at night you live it all again. You wouldn’t be shattered on the floor now, if only you had seen what you know now then.
It’s alright, just wait and see. Your string of lights is still bright to me. Oh who you are is not where you’ve been. You’re still an innocent.
It’s okay, life is a tough crowd. 32, is still growin’ up now. Who you are is not what you did. You’re still an innocent.
Time turns flames in to embers. You’ll have new Septembers. Every one of us has messed up too. Minds change like the weather. I hope you remember, today is never too late to be brand new.”
(Note: Clearly Taylor Swift lyrics aren’t from the Bible and therefore not perfect words. But, I do think God can speak to our hearts and provide comforting words from unsuspecting places that remind us of the Gospel.)