I woke to the television on outside of my bedroom. Too loud. I prefer the rhythm of the water crashing on the shore of Lake Michigan and the hum of voices as couples walk and laugh together. I stretched out of bed and let my tween snuggle warm against me on this cool fall morning.
We sat watching BFG (Big Friendly Giant). And there it was, the lie that has tormented me so many times as I have walked this path of faith. The sweet, and rather smallish giant catches dreams. One in particular, caught by the girl almost brings him panic. He quickly retrieves it from her and locks it up. When she asks why, he answers that the nightmare is one of the worst. It is “Look at what you has done. And there be no forgiveness for.”
And my heart hears the lie and recognizes it. I am almost in tears as the reality hits me. Hasn’t that been just the nightmare that has haunted me? Haunted. I have swallowed pills, used hard drugs, poured alcohol down my throat and somehow believed that the grace of God wasn’t enough for me. Somehow, the mistakes I made could not be forgiven because I already knew the love of Jesus when I took my first hit–maybe if I had not already entrusted my life to Jesus, my sins would have been forgivable. The women who met me in the messiness and the prayer group that carried me to the Throne of Grace know that this has been my stumbling all along, perhaps even more so than harm done to me: the inability to receive the forgiveness and grace of God for my own failings in the pain. I stood unable to forgive myself.
Unforgiveness is the worst of nightmares. It far outweighs the harm done to me or the harm that I have done to myself. A weight tied around the neck, it drowns a soul in self-contempt and hopelessness. The lie of unforgiveness surrounded me with guilt and shame, plunging me into the darkest depths of self-hatred. I couldn’t escape. No matter what anyone said to me, I knew that God would forgive me, but I couldn’t forgive myself.
Even so, God spoke into the darkest depths of the nightmare. He spoke healing and truth. It started with a song that someone from the little prayer group posted when I asked what to do after I had fallen: “Grace Wins”. Grace. I couldn’t receive it then. I couldn’t allow myself the grace I needed to break my fall. I would fall so much further, be drowning in much deeper waters, before God would split my heart open wide and I would receive the grace. But it was this song that He kept before me. That and the pearls of promises strung together in my heart by the very God who created me and who was with me not only when the harm was done to me, but when I began using.
Just as always, the Word of God worked in me through the power of the Holy Spirit. His Word began to erode away the guilt and shame, brought me to a place where I was able to receive His grace and forgiveness, enabled me to forgive myself and extend grace to myself. The weight of the lie was lifted. “Look at what you has done. And there be no forgiveness for” fell on deaf ears as God enabled me to hear the truth that my sins, no matter how dark or how accusing, are forgiven by the One who died on the cross. The moment I confess them to the God who already knows, He faithfully forgives. The price has been paid and the weight has been lifted. The drowning soul is rescued, lifted from the water and restored to dry land.
And for you today: Are there things in your life that are weights plummeting you to the bottom of a dark sea of guilt and shame? Have you heard the lie that what you have done is beyond forgiveness? Whatever your struggle, God has good news for you today. Those very things that accuse and hold you hostage are the things that Jesus carried to the cross and died for. Whatever they are – harm you have done, harm done to you, drugs, alcohol, unfaithfulness, lies, abuse – nothing is beyond the grace of God. He loves you and is waiting for you to cry out to Him.
“If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness.” ~I John 1:8
“Come now, let us reason together: though your sins are as scarlet, they shall be white as snow; though they are like crimson, they shall become like wool. ” ~Isaiah 1:18
“For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not of your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast.” ~Ephesians 2:8-9