In Part 1 of this Forgiveness series, I shared some benefits of forgiveness as well as one of my personal stories of forgiving another person. This article looks at how God’s forgiveness frees us up from the yick & muck we get trapped in and move forward in his light & love.
Waiting With Open Arms
How many times have you felt paralyzed or less than/not good enough because of things you did or ‘should’ve done’? Has the guilt, shame, regret – humiliation even – held you back from doing something amazing or from being the person God is calling you to be?
Personally, it happens to me more times than I care to admit. But, I’ve found seeking forgiveness from God frees me up from all that yick and allows me to take a look at the bigger picture. I can see where I’ve stepped away from his love, and how I can get back on track. Knowing he rejoices in my ability to recognize where I have gone wrong and welcomes me back with open arms.
Jesus tells us more about God’s true, forgiving nature in the story of the Prodigal Son in Luke 15: 11-32. As our Creator, God know we’re not perfect, how much we’re tempted and how sin affects us. He knows and yet, he love us so much he lets us make our own choices, learn our own lessons throughout life.
But like the loving Father he is, he’s always waiting for us to return to him with open arms. Waiting for us to make amends, take responsibility, confess what we’ve done wrong, apologize with a contrite heart and intend to do better moving forward.
Formal Forgiveness Sacraments & Rituals
Most denominations have some type of formal confession, penance or reconciliation rite as part of the regular worship service and/or as a special sacrament of healing.
Growing up Catholic, I was taught and encouraged to go to Confession or Reconciliation at least yearly (usually during Lent). But being the stubborn, fiercely independent youngster I was, I didn’t see the point in telling the priest about the naughty things I did. Why couldn’t I just tell God one-on-one? Why did I have to say it out loud?
I honestly thought the priest was just going to judge & condemn me, so there were many services where I flat out didn’t ‘go’ talk to the priest. I sat in my pew, read something, doodled, wrote out song lyrics or daydreamed – pretending I was praying. Never letting on that I didn’t actually ‘go’ to the priest. Little did I know, I was only hurting myself.
It wasn’t until I was in my late 20’s when I really understood the benefits of this healing, freeing sacrament.
Admitting When & Where We’ve Gone Astray
It’s not about telling the priest about all the naughty things I’ve done (which I hadn’t done for over a decade). It’s about reconciling with God. The 1st step is admitting what we’ve done wrong. Hence the need to tell the priest, someone trained to listen, understand and convey God’s all-encompassing love & mercy.
There is power in saying those things out loud. Not that the priest ‘cares’ exactly what are sins are, but that we get them off our chest, backs, shoulders, wherever we’re harboring them. Once we voice them out loud, it’s like we see & understand how much we’ve not only hurt God & others, but ourselves as well.
It’s very therapeutic and can be extremely emotional. I’m so thankful we have priests that listen with compassion, don’t judge, and recognize we are all human as they remind us of God’s forgiveness. (Sounds a lot like counseling or talking to a trusted friend doesn’t it?)
For those of you who are not familiar with the sacrament, the priest will then usually give a penance, or give you a ‘task’ of sorts to do to help bring you closer to God so you’re less apt to do it again – which is what God wants! Sometimes its prayer, other times it’s doing a good deed.
No, we don’t need to confess our sins to God formally. We can do it one-on-one. But the sacrament of Reconciliation is a way to hear someone tell you God does welcome you back with open arms. Something many of us need to hear and is echoed in James 5:16 “Therefore, confess your sins to one another and pray for one another, that you may be healed”.
Much like a loving parent does when their child does something naughty and expresses remorse. The parent knows the child is sorry and has learned the lesson. There is no need to lord it over them, keeping them locked in guilt, shame or regret.
Unforgivable? Think Again….
And some of you may be thinking “Yeah, but there’s no way God will totally forgive me for ______________.” I invite you to take a look at Moses, a murderer; David, an adulterer; Peter, who denied even knowing Jesus; Paul, who mercilessly persecuted Jesus. Even Judas, who betrayed Jesus. Unfortunately, he never sought God’s forgiveness and let the guilt & shame drive him to end his own life.
It’s human to not want to admit and let others see our shortcomings, weaknesses, and our ‘less than perfect’ sides. Afterall, that’s not what we see on social media or other ‘public’ places. But God knows.
God knows what we’ve done, all the yick we carry around. The guilt, shame, regret, remorse, habits we know don’t serve us well. All those shortcomings we keep hidden behind closed doors, locked away, deep inside.
All that yick has a tendency to eat away at us. It festers, causing dis-ease and keeps us stuck in the muck. God doesn’t want that for us!
Freeing Up Space with God’s Forgiveness
But in order for him to do something about it, we’ve got to show it to him. Not only show it to him, but hand it over to him. Free up that space so he can fill it with his light and love – so we can then move forward in that light and love.
Whether we seek God’s forgiveness in a formal sacrament or other religious ritual or seek it regularly one-on-one, the important thing is to surrender all this yick and feel God envelope us in his light & love, in a safe space where we won’t feel judged. Even though God has the authority to judge and hold all that against us, he wants nothing more than to soothe & heal our wounds. Like a parent who comforts a sobbing child who’s sorry for hitting their brother or breaking a window playing softball in the front yard.
Free to be Your True Self
God delights in our repentance, our coming home to our true selves. He wants nothing more than to fill us with his light & love, shower us with his goodness. But it’s our choice. We have to let him see the yick, hand it over to him so we can be free to live the happy, active, vibrant life he calls us to live and enjoy the journey!