I love playing tennis; fresh air, physical activity, and intellectual strategy all come together to provide me with unlimited opportunity for humility under His name (something I always need work on.) I do love the game though and take lessons a few times a month. As I said I get plenty of opportunity for humility when I miss-hit or just flat miss a ball. There’s not much you can do when you swing mightily and wiff or watch the ball scream straight up about 60 feet other than smile, put your hand up, and murmur a sheepish, “sorry,” as the ball bounces back to earth providing punctuation for your flagrant flailing fail. The sweet coach would use her patient voice and tell me that it’s o.k. and provide feedback to correct my error and I’d move on.
On a rare occasion though I get the physical moves right, my body gets in position, my timing is right, and I get a great hit on the ball….. to the exact wrong part of the court and my opponent crushes it back at me. On one of these occasions I walked from the net scolding myself loudly, “That was so Stupid?!?!”
The coach immediately raised her voice (which I had never heard her do before), “Hey, don’t talk to my friend like that!”
I looked around thinking, “Did she think I was talking to someone else?”
She said it again, this time softer, “Don’t talk to my friend like that…” she left it hanging and I figured it out (as I’m sure you all already have because I give my readers much more credit for intelligence than I give myself) she was talking to me. Wow, my coach who, , I didn’t know all that well was standing up to me on my own behalf. I was floored, what a kind and giant gesture that came in such a tiny package.
I realized that I can forgive others so freely as to seem like a pushover, but that I held myself to a much more rigid standard. I never felt like I could get forgiveness without some sort of acts of kindness or heroism to make up for the bad I had done. Maybe it was my Catholic (sort of) upbringing (As George Carlin said, “12 our Fathers and you’re back on the street,”) maybe it was my love of comic books where I saw Peter Parker living a life trying to make up for letting his Uncle Ben die. Who knows but I have always felt like I had to do something to balance the scales. If you ever saw my ledger you would understand what a weight that is and why I sometimes get so anxious thinking about how to make up for it.
The most welcoming thing about my old church is that every Sunday the pastor would admit, “I’m a sinner.” No holier than thou rhetoric about how he was a sinner, no finger pointing, just that he is a sinner. It made me start to feel something different about myself, I wasn’t really ready to accept it but there was a feeling in the back of my head, the dimmest of lights was starting to shine. Maybe, just maybe, we all have a ledger.
A few things hit me in a row then, I had begun to immerse myself in God’s word, I was curious and that little light in the back of my head was leading me out of a tunnel. On Netflix I switched over from “Orange is the New Black” to “The Bible” and then to “The Son of God.” I started a few different Bible studies on the Youversion Bible App (if you don’t have that get it, now… Why are you still reading? Go download the app, I’ll be here when you get back.)
Hey welcome back, the big thing that kept coming up in my Biblical Netflix Binging and the Bible app was the disciples and Jesus talking about sinners. Luke, Mark, Matthew, Timothy (I didn’t even know there was a Timothy) and probably a few others that are left out due to my ignorance, all were saying that He came for the sinners, not the righteous. They also repeated over and over what Jesus said, “It is not the healthy that need a doctor, but the sick.” I was floored. Jesus died for me, not for the guy who was without sin. I realized it, the light was getting brighter, but I still didn’t really believe it, not that I was forgiven.
Then, finally when my sins had pulled almost all of my world down around me I was ready, I was broken down to my knees and sobbing and a friend asked me, “Are you ready to accept that Jesus died for your sins so that you could be saved?”
“Yes,” I sobbed, I wiped away the tears and stood up and felt good, the light was so bright in my head that it shined into my heart. I know this seems like this is the end of the story but it’s not. You all read that I was saved in my last entry (You didn’t read it yet? Go ahead and go back we’ll wait.) But I still have work.
I believe and it feels so good to believe that Jesus died for me to wash away my sins so that I could accept God’s forgiveness, but I still struggle with feeling like I need to make it up, that I need to do something to deserve it.
Enter a guy from my new church, we met for coffee and I told him my whole ugly tale (probably wouldn’t win the ugly tale contest even at church but a runner up at least. Then I told him, “At that point I finally believed that I deserved God’s forgiveness.”
He immediately pumped the brakes on my story, “Wait, did you say you deserve it?”
I had misspoken because… I get it, but the words were out there and maybe my subconscious was trying to tell me something. “Yea, that’s what I said.”
“You don’t Deserve it,” he said with quiet steel in his voice, “Nobody deserves it, but He grants it anyway.”
Why is it so hard to accept that we receive God’s grace by believing and not through acts, too easy maybe? Maybe it’s something else. I read on one of my Youversion Bible plans on recovering from sin about forgiving yourself. The devotional stated that not forgiving yourself is a form of non-belief, and that when we don’t forgive ourselves it’s like we are making Jesus die on the Cross every day for us. Ouch
The spiritual warfare that goes on in our hearts is such as this; the accuser loves us to not believe that we deserve it. The father of lies wants us to hide in our shame. Our shame and our refusal to forgive ourselves stands between us and Salvation, between us and Jesus, and mostly it stands between us and God’s love. The devil loves the dark parts of your heart so let the light in and forgive yourself.
I’m still not great at it. I’ve broken so many hearts, some more than once. I’ve done so much damage and I start to get anxious thinking, “I have to make it up to them. What can I do?” I start getting mad at myself and hating myself and saying, “How could I be such a monster? How could I have broken those hearts that trusted me and loved me? How could I be so stupid!?!?”
Then I take a breath and think of Jesus saying, “Hey, don’t talk to my friend like that!”
So, when I’m feeling really anxious about feeling like I need to make amends or atone for my sins to the hearts I’ve broken. I trust God, and pray to Him that he gives strength and love to those that I’ve hurt and I read the following from Phillipias 4:6,7.
“Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.”