God rescued us from dead-end alleys and dark dungeons. He’s set us up in the kingdom of the Son he loves so much, the Son who got us out of the pit we were in, got rid of the sins we were doomed to keep repeating. Colossians 1:14 (The Message)
I have discussed forgiveness in this space in the past, but today I want to tell a story of self-forgiveness. It is a common issue- we all face it, but this is an uncommon story. I say the issue is common, because it is part of our nature to have a conscience. It is true, that there are some individuals where the conscience is not well developed, or in rare cases, such as sociopaths, where there appears to be no sense of conscience present.
For the vast majority of people though, the sense of having done wrong, and being aware of it, is just part of being human. Thankfully, we have this sense of responsibility and awareness so that we can live collectively and supportively with one another. Just like anything else in us, this strength, this necessary self-awareness, to an extreme, can become a weakness.
We have a very hard time forgiving ourselves. We remember what we have done, how we have failed, or how we have hurt someone, and it eats at us. It can destroy us if we do not deal with it.
I had a client years ago, I will call her Lisa (not her real name, of course) who told me her story. Lisa had lived a life of brokenness. She had been a prostitute and a morphine addict, and one night she was taken to the emergency room- probably from an overdose. I will put the story in her words:
“They say that when you are dying that you are drawn to a bright light. There was no light where I was going. I was falling into a deep, dark, frightening pit. As I was falling, I heard a voice say to me ‘Lisa, if I sent my son to die for you, to forgive you, how dare you not forgive yourself!’
With that, the next thing I saw was myself lying on a table in a bright emergency room. In a moment, I was aware that I had not died, and that my life was changed.”
So, what had happened to Lisa? Maybe God had spoken to her. Lisa certainly believed it. The story was so powerful to me that I remember it 20 years later, and I share it, with her permission. It is a statement of the need for self-forgiveness, not as an option, but as a command! How can we choose not to forgive ourselves if the price of forgiveness was so high? How dare us not accept that forgiveness and live it out.
Lisa was a very dear person- one whose life really did change. Her story is powerful, and I hope it helps as a reminder of our need to forgive ourselves when we get lost in shame for things we have done, or for failures that seem to stick with us.
Tomorrow, another self-forgiveness story.
Prayer: Thank you Lord for the forgiveness you freely offer to us. Help us to use it for the freedom for which it was meant, Amen.