It took me a long time to accept that this Jesus whom I claimed to believe in would actually forgive me for the things I had done, and would do, in my life. Yet Jesus gave us the prayer in which he directs us to ask for forgiveness—and to forgive others (Matthew 6:9-15). He tells the paralyzed man that he, “the Son of Man have the authority on earth to forgive sins” (Matthew 9:6). He even forgave those that crucified him, and yet, I couldn’t believe that he would forgive me and my sins or acts of bad behavior.
I didn’t know about “unfailing love” or “compassion” growing up. There were expectations and measurements for good and bad behavior and I believed I usually fell far below any set standards. I was usually told that I didn’t measure up and would never measure up at the rate I was going. Even after committing my life to Christ in my 30’s, I still felt judged in my churches and less than worthy to be there. I may have been judged by some, but mostly I was judging myself and comparing myself against other people—who were most likely hiding their own shortcomings and failures behind a mask of service and pasted on smiles. I constructed my own roadblock to accepting the love that I read about and believed was only given to the really good people surrounding me on Sunday. I heard stories of change and mercy given but I didn’t think that was meant for me.
And then, sitting in the chairs at a prayer service one night, I finally gave in. I laid down on the floor facing the cross and I said “I’m sorry for what I did.” I cried and began to let go of the things I was holding on to. I began to walk through my youth and my brokenness and to ask God to forgive me for those things. One-by-one, he brought to mind those times I hurt others or hurt myself by my behavior. And one-by-one I felt the burden of carrying that shame lifted from my life. Little by little, I came to believe that God loved me, ME personally, just as much as the nice person sitting next to me on Sunday. Little by little I came to know his mercy and layer by layer he changed my life. I started to laugh again. I could hold my head up. I could smile at someone and reach a hand out and tell them God was there, I was there, and we would make it out of the dark together. Just as I learned to see how God sees me, I am learning to see others as he does, with “unfailing love and compassion.” May you too come to know that peace—it is a prayer away.
“Remember, O Lord, your unfailing love and compassion, which you have shown from long ages past. Forgive the rebellious sins of my youth; look instead through the eyes of your unfailing love, for you are merciful, O Lord.”
Psalm 25:6-7 New Living Translations