Having 3 boys in the house can be a little noisy, and I have to be really intentional about the quiet time I get to spend with each of them. When it’s my 5 year old’s turn to have 1-on-1 time with me, he’ll crawl all of his nearly 4′ self into my lap, and rest his head on my chest, they way he did when he was a baby. I’ll play with his curls and ask about his day, telling him how cool I think he is and how much I love him. During the long pauses, I squeeze him extra tight, not filling the silence with words, but with presence.
Often, he’ll pop off my chest and rub my arms or hands and say, “Mama, I’m sorry for that time I hurt you.” Those moments genuinely catch me off guard, as I often have no idea what he’s talking about. I just smile and hug him, saying, “Baby, it’s ok. I don’t even remember what you’re talking about.” He’ll always try to explain and jog my memory, because he truly feels bad for whatever it is, but I don’t let him. I tell him whatever it is was forgiven when he did it, so he doesn’t need to apologize again. I hold him close and his uncertainty as to whether or not we are truly reconciled melts away, overcome by the sound of my heart beating with love for him.
I wish it was that easy for me to be reassured by God. I don’t know about you, but my shame is authoritative. I remember a few months ago being at a day long retreat and the pastor was leading through an exercise of getting rid of unnecessary guilt and shame. I had my hand on my shoulder, as though I was holding onto the physical weight I felt, ready to mime taking it off and almost heard audibly, “You put that right back where it belongs. You are disgusting. Never forget that.”
My hand dropped. What business did I have asking God to heal me from my shame after what I had done? I mean, was I even truly sorry? Did I carry enough embarrassment, disgrace and remorse to be forgiven?
I put my hand over my heart and silently cried out to God, “I’m so sorry…” Before I could finish my sentence, I heard the Holy Spirit ask, “What are we talking about?” I began to recount the depth and breadth of my sin and was cut off, “Why are we discussing this again? Why do you continue to remind me of this? For I am the God who pardons sin and forgives the transgression of my people. I don’t stay angry, like people are prone to, but love to show mercy. I have compassion on you, treading all of your sin under my feet, and hurling your iniquity into the depths of the sea. As far as the east is from the west, so far have I removed that sin from you, and you don’t need to hold onto your shame any longer. When I forgive you, I remember it no more.” (Micah 7:18-19; Psalm 103:12; Hebrews 8:12)
I haven’t done much confession since that day, as I hear what God is saying, but the guilt has lingered. But today is Yom Kippur, the Jewish Day of Atonement where Jews gather to corporately confess our sin for the past year. As a Jesus-following Jew, I practice and contemplate a little differently, and this morning, 2 of my girlfriends and I met to have service at the beach, to visualize our iniquity being cast into the ocean and see the wideness of how far the east is from the west. We reflected, confessed and held the weight of our sin in our hands. Then, after all had come to light, we went and washed in the ocean, giving them over to God. As the water receeded, there was a temptation to stay with our shame a little longer, but God spoke through the waves, which were seemingly held back and not returning to the shore as quickly as before, “I’ve taken it and I’m not returning it. Leave the water.”
Paul Washer is credited for saying, “I have given Christ countless reasons not to love me. Not one of them have changed his mind.” He longs to be merciful to you, and bathe you in the waves of his love. Don’t wait! Jump in today.