I recall years ago, hearing someone, very accurately, say “The Discipline of the Lord is sweet, ya’all!”. When He convicts us of sin, it is so distinctly different than any human rebuke, and never carries with it any sort of guilt or condemnation. He touches our deepest places and instantly heals, like He did to so many blind, lame, leprous, possessed, even dead, human beings during His short visit to earth.
Last Sunday, I was up in the balcony at the Athens Middle School, where I often go on Sunday mornings, before our church service begins. I love to go up there and pray for the Church (local and global), but last Sunday, I was praying for myself. My heart was a wreck. My marriage was a wreck. My perspective was in the mud.
I began reading the precious Psalm 51, the one David wrote when he was repenting over his adultery with Bathsheba and murder of Uriah (her husband). One particular line stood out to me like never before “And do not take Your Holy Spirit from me”. I’d read it countless times. But this time it sunk deep. I immediately remembered that David had just seen God forsake Saul when he had sinned in, what seems to my human understanding, far less devastating ways. You can read Saul’s story in 1 Samuel 15.
I knew it was in Samuel’s writings, so I just started flipping until I found it. And when I did, the contrast was remarkable. Saul’s confession was so shallow and prideful. He “confessed” that he had sinned, but then immediately made excuses, blame-shifted and then asked Samuel to keep up appearances, by returning with him, so he could “worship the Lord”. David on the other hand, was broken and contrite and deeply saddened over his actions that had so remarkably dishonored God.
I thought of another pair in the Scriptures, whose response to their very similar sins was so noticeably different… Judas Iscariot and Simon Peter. Judas took the most devastating route of escape, suicide, because he just didn’t know how to absolve his own guilt (though Jesus could’ve easily taken care of that for him). And Peter wept bitterly… and then found healing in his risen Savior a few days later.
This was like the sweetest punch in the heart for me, because I’ve been a lot more like Saul and Judas than David or Peter lately. I’ve blame-shifted and wished for the consequences to dissolve, rather than feeling remorse over my sin.
After church, I went for a drive by myself, because we needed hay and chicken feed. As I turned down my road, still a few miles to go, I could hear the Holy Spirit telling me that I’d been meditating on those stories, but when was I going to do it… to truly repent.
I pulled into the church parking lot right in front of me, got out of the truck and dropped to my knees and had the sweetest time of confession before God Almighty, Who loves me so tremendously and without any disdain. I told Him about how lame I’d been as a wife, how I’d been resentful and nagging and putting immense amounts of pressure on my wonderful husband, who loves me so much that he kept on trying to please his grumpy, demanding wife. And my kids, oh those extra sweet boys, how I’d been treating them, by creating such tension in their home, by being too hard on them, by blaming their dad for all our conflict, giving an awful example as to what they should hope for in a wife, etc.
And then I went home. No confession is complete without addressing those who your sin directly affects. I gathered my amazing family in the living room and knelt before them, and wept and confessed and rejoiced. And do you know whats so great… the liberty that follows…. and I just want to say that I’ve got the best family, because they all remind me of Jesus in how freely they forgive!
I am writing all of this because I think this is a very human problem. We are more like Adam and Eve in the garden, usually. We hide from God, forgetting that His forgiveness is immense and immediate, forgetting that He already knows where we are and what we’ve done, or what thoughts are taking residence in our hearts. Then, when He calls us out on it, we try to shift the blame… “It was the wife You gave me, Lord”, “It was the serpent that deceived me”. We are so quick to forget that He is exposing us because He loves us and wants healing for us.
But when we are honest and transparent with the One who willingly died to liberate us, then we find immeasurable grace that completely absolves all shame, guilt and condemnation. We can be free. But we can’t make ourselves clean. We need the sacrifice of the cross. If we continue to try to pretend that we’ve got it all together, we are like blind men, refusing to admit that we can’t see… or worse, dead men, clinging to the inside of our coffins when the One tries to liberate us from it. But there is such great liberty at the foot of the cross, where we can be freely, liberally forgiven for everything. When Christ makes us clean, He does a complete job of it! And with His forgiveness comes unending, unyielding joy and freedom!