Depending on who you ask I haven’t learned very much in my time on earth, but there is one thing that experience has taught me well. When mistakes are made, and they are, the course of action I take will determine almost everything about me for days afterward.
I can wallow and drown in the filth and muck of regret and frustration. I can allow my prayers to become little more than a string of apologies with each one worded slightly different so God will remain interested in what I have to say. I can even begin to think that I need to pay some sort of penance for whatever I’ve done. It’s a scenario that has frustratingly played out more than once over the years.
But there is another response.
As I have meditated on the life of a believer, and the life that Jesus has called us to engage, following Him and pursuing a knowledge of Him, I have been arrested by the utter lack of weight that Jesus seems to give sins and failures that have been repented of. He, almost maddeningly, seems to see the things I’ve repented of with far less grief than I do. In fact, though it seems ridiculous, I would be fair in saying that though it cost Jesus His life, given up on the cross, He has a much easier time forgiving me than I do forgiving myself.
What I am not talking about is passing over stupid decisions, acting like they don’t matter, pretending that it’s just a little thing. That is a slap in the face of God and a dangerous pathway to walk down for anyone. Each mistake means something. Each act of rebellion necessitated the spilling of blood. Each “oops” violates the character of God as righteous and holy. I cannot hold a right view of life and good and evil and God and salvation while trying to act as if sin doesn’t matter.
But those things I am convicted of by the Ghost, and repent of by determining to set my eyes upon Christ for strength and faith and direction, they are gone. As gone as steam evaporated into the atmosphere, no more to be found, no more to be thought of, no more to hang over my head. God holds no grudge for anything that has been paid for in blood. He does not prod me with guilt, He instead chooses grace to grow me. He does not keep record of wrong, instead He uses a pure record to beckon me to live at a higher level.
He loves when He should hate. He gives when He should take. He embraces when He should expel. He searches when He should write us off. He invites us to dinner when He should take a warrant out for our arrest. And when we kiss His cheek in the garden, notifying all the evil in the world of the place where He seems to be most weak, He looks us in the eyes and calls us “friend”. Not only that, but He takes that place that looks weakest, His mercy and grace and slow pace to show wrath, and He reveals it to be the strongest substance in the universe.
If, and when, I stumble, there is a need in my life to embrace fully the work of Jesus on the cross, and the love of the Father who sent Him. When I meditate on those things the guilt and anguish drain from my soul like poison from a wound.
May we choose the joy of repentance to the despair of guilt and find our Father’s arms open wide in our most trying times.