This morning I had a rare opportunity to read, pray and talk to God alone at a park. A sweet friend had invited my boys over, and I savored every moment of God and me time.
I’ve felt drained lately, more so than usual. The past two years, around this time, we were preparing for our exchange student daughters to come. From the moment their planes touched down, we were off and running, seemingly non-stop, for two 10+ month intervals.
|In June with my Ghanian daughter Ama, just a few days before she left|
After two action-packed years, I feel my body and emotions wavering between shock and recovery mode. And I am grateful for the good memories as I put my feet up, this time blissfully uninvolved with the local high school schedule. Although, there is a tinge of boredom in the air . . . how do we go back to “normal” after ultra-activity?
God is using this time in my life to help me reevaluate. As I was sitting at the park enjoying the amazing book Even God Rested: Why It’s Okay For Women to Slow Down by Kim Thomas, I was curious when my heart was particularly alert during the chapter about anger. I listened for God’s Spirit to speak to me as I reviewed those who have wronged or misunderstood me: ____ = forgiven, ____= forgiven, and down the list I went. Then a most unexpected turn of events – I sensed God was showing me that I had not forgiven myself! And all this time I have been stewing about those other people.
“Forgive yourself” possibly sounds like a talk-show diagnosis. Challenged by a wise friend who asked me the biblical basis for this, perhaps it would be better to say I accept God’s forgiveness and no longer condemn myself. In case you are interested, here are some thoughts we discussed:
- Colossians 3:13 – “Forbearing one another, and forgiving one another, if any man have a quarrel against any: even as Christ forgave you, so also do ye,” . . . The Greek root word “heautou” (one another) refers not only to others, but also to ourselves.
- Berating myself for past failures and sins has only prevented me from living in God’s forgiveness/being fully who God wants me to be. Living spiritually is seeing myself through God’s eyes: Sinful, yet FORGIVEN. Therefore, it is my own pride and stubbornness not likewise to forgive what God has already forgiven.
- Hebrews 9:14 – “…how much more shall the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered Himself without spot to God, cleanse your conscience from dead works to serve the living God?”
- Ephesians 4:32 – “And be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, even as God in Christ forgave you.” Even though I am a sinner, God gives me the choice to forgive or not forgive other sinners. Do you think Saul/Paul needed to stand with God forgiving himself for his violence against his new brothers and sisters in Christ? At least he probably had to remind himself, when nightmares plagued his conscience, “I stand forgiven in Christ, therefore I shall not live in the past, condemning myself.” I have the privilege of saying with Christ, “Sara, you are forgiven … go on in God’s grace.”
- Romans 8:1,33 – “There is therefore now no condemnation to them which are in Christ Jesus, who walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit . . . who shall bring a charge against God’s elect? It is God who justifies.” GOD justifies – I cannot justify myself nor anyone. Accepting His full and free forgiveness – it would be disrespectful of His sacrifice to continue to condemn my forgiven self.
- In John 8:9-12 Jesus tells the woman caught in adultery that He nor any other man condemns her, and then a very important “Go and sin no more.” Why? “Then spake Jesus again unto them, saying, I am the light of the world: he that followeth me shall not walk in darkness, but shall have the light of life.”
It seems to me that holding onto the guilt is connected with pride . . . as if something I can DO will justify myself. I am thankful that I do not have gigantic baggage – God protected me greatly. And some of the things I have struggled with are sins of omission or the sad happenstance of not knowing that someone I love was being abused. “If only I had known, I would’ve helped them!!”
Another part is accepting God’s sovereignty. I am just not that big! He works through our sins and mistakes for good in our lives and in the lives of others – He breathes life into dust and brings the dead to life. Hallelujah!
Tonight, while all this was soaking in, and right after I shared with Tim the release God gave me today, I was contacted by one of the people on my forgiven list. It was like a bright cherry on top of a sundae, reminding me that God can open channels which once seemed impenetrable. Thank You, God, for working faithfully and patiently with Your children!
If you are in a place of exhaustion, confusion, or just plain needing a recharge, I highly recommend Kim’s book. And as soon as you can, cry out to God and go to a quiet place, prepared to listen to Him. What you think may be the reason for your struggle may be completely opposite of what God is trying to teach you.
I’d like to close with something my wonderful friend Kay gave me yesterday: “Psalm 23:2. He doesn’t LET us lie down in green pastures because we usually don’t do that of our free will (we’re too busy). So He makes us lie down. So thankful He does that for us. THEN, after He does that, He leads us to the quiet water and THEN He refreshes our soul. “