Early in my Christian journey, I held back from God because I felt I did not deserve forgiveness.
My life up until then displayed the wreckage of selfish abandon. Guilt and shame hounded me like Pigpen’s dust cloud solidified into the heaviest rock imaginable. Amidst 10,000 Christians joyously worshipping the Lord at a Casting Crowns concert, I stood still, stuffing that boulder of shame deep into my pocket, thinking no one would notice. In my limited understanding, I was not worthy to participate in the free-flowing of the Holy Spirit, so I sulked.
I know that I am not alone in this sentiment.
Three things kicked me in the backside and knocked that boulder out of my possession. First, my husband taught me about mercy and grace in a way that made sense. He told me that God’s mercy is Him not giving us what we really deserve because of our sinful behaviors, and His grace is Him giving us what we do not deserve, which is His unconditional love.
He also explained the difference between conviction and condemnation in that conviction is from the Holy Spirit, and condemnation comes from the enemy. Conviction inspires behavior change, whereas condemnation makes that boulder heavier. The heavier the boulder, the more focus we give it.
Second, my husband took me to a revival in Stratford, Texas, to hear an evangelist talk about mercy and grace. This man’s testimony beautifully illustrated both concepts, and I came away thinking that maybe I could experience this mercy and grace too. Maybe God would forgive me.
Third, I reread Beth Moore’s Breaking Free Bible study. I went through it once at the very beginning of my Christian journey, but in going through it again, something on page 11 whacked me in the face.
“God’s hatred of pride doesn’t mean He wants you to feel bad about yourself. In fact, putting ourselves down represents another twisted form of pride. God hates pride because it dethrones Him and puts ourselves at the center of our universe.” — Beth Moore, Breaking Free
Carrying around that boulder of shame kept my attention on myself and my supposed unworthiness.
God wanted to be the center of my universe and I wasn’t letting Him.
Focusing on guilt, shame, and unworthiness is indeed a twisted form of pride. God’s beautiful gifts of forgiveness, mercy, grace, and love were there for the taking, but my attachment to that wretched boulder meant I was blind to them because my hands were full of myself!
Forgiveness and freedom
Foggy recall of that time of my life prevents me from sharing the story in a logical sequence of events. However, when I finally dropped the boulder and accepted God’s forgiveness, the experience was cataclysmic.
Forgiveness shattered the boulder of shame!
Without that thing attached to me, my soul felt free. I could see God there, with His gifts, where He was the whole time. In my imagination, I see Him with a slight smirk mingled with on His face that I finally got it.
I was always here and so were My gifts.
Forgiveness busted that boulder, so I could feel the weightlessness of freedom in Jesus. Without condemning myself constantly, I felt love in a new way. I understood
“My chains are gone, I’ve been set free!” — Chris Tomlin
When the boulder threatened to reassemble itself, the Word smashed it back to smithereens.
“There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.” (Romans 8:1)
I want more people to feel this. My heart explodes with love for others because I know the freedom that waits for them. Even as I struggle to understand why people do the things they do, I pray for them to experience the power of forgiveness. I pray that more people in the world see shame and condemnation as twisted pride and realize that it is unnecessary.
“Therefore, I tell you, her sins, which are many are forgiven, for she loved much. But he who is forgiven little, loves little.” (Luke 7:47, ESV)
This verse holds powerful ammunition. I feel for this unnamed woman who came before Jesus and wiped his feet with her tears. Her actions demonstrate the ultimate act of repentance, and He was there to forgive her wholly and completely. Accepting His forgiveness makes room to accept His other gifts, which are so incredibly beyond beautiful.
My recommendation for those on the fence is that if God forgave me (see that little bit of pride there?), He will forgive you.
He’s there, waiting for you. Go, do it. Don’t be afraid.