There it was again, a memory I thought I’d left behind twenty plus years ago. But in the early hours of a cold Colorado morning, I awoke with this as a bookmarked entry on my mind’s playlist. Was it a dream? Did the memory awaken me? Was I already awake when it surfaced? It made no difference. There it was.
The thought of leaving my warm bed was not attractive in the least. Still, I decided a hot cup of herb tea and a few minutes in prayer would help me regain my slumber. I padded out to the kitchen in my fuzzy slippers and robe and put the kettle on.
As I sat in the dark, sipping the hot liquid, snuggling in my fleece blanket and favorite chair, I was hit by waves of guilt. The haunting infraction replayed without missing a single, unpleasant, vivid detail. I shook my head back and forth, trying to clear the image of directing anger and frustration at a loved one two decades ago.
“What am I doing back here, Lord? Why are you punishing me? I’ve tried to make up for this. I’ve apologized to you, to the one I hurt and have felt forgiveness from both. Why am I still standing on the guilt meter about something I cannot change?”
The room was silent…and cold. I waited.
The memory of the incident replayed. The hurt on my loved one’s face seared my conscience and pierced my heart.
“Lord, I’m so sorry. Please forgive me. Will I live forever with this awful memory of terrible behavior fed by an unleashed temper and untamed tongue?” Tears of shame crawled down my cheeks, then progressed to a steady stream in a matter of seconds.
“Father God. Please forgive me.”
On the flat screen of my brain a New Testament verse appeared, edging out the glaring transgression. “Their sins and lawless acts I will remember no more” (Hebrews 10:17 NIV).
I felt God was saying, “I have forgiven you child.” His truth filled my heart and ears as we sat together in a once familiar room, now made foreign as regret framed the dark, shadowless space.
“Then why is it still here? Why tonight? What must I do to remove it? Please Lord, what must I do?” I wailed.
There is nothing more valuable than the Scriptures at any time, but especially when we are in pain. “Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you” (Ephesians 4:32 NIV).
I sat stunned as I realized God was saying that in this case, I was the “one another.” I needed to be compassionate with myself and forgive the person in this scene I continued to condemn – me. I had been assured over and over of God’s love and forgiveness. I also had been granted forgiveness from my loved one. Yet, I still clung to my guilt, shame and human fallibility with a death grip.
Billions upon billions of sins were nailed to the cross at Calvary. And it never occurred to me, until that moment, my lack of forgiveness for myself was in essence un-nailing of sin that was covered by His precious blood. Yes, even this sin had been borne by our savior on that rough wood, in His wounded body, so that I wouldn’t be rendered sleepless, immobile and at risk for use and abuse by my own thoughts. My revisiting this event and resisting the healing balm of Christ’s sacrifice was, in a way, showing ingratitude for that sacrifice.
I closed my eyes and sipped the now tepid tea. I handed my pain, my past, my guilt and my unforgiving heart up to the Lord to be placed where they belonged. Even when my unconscious mind unleashes memories of wrong-doing on my part, I can see a nail driven through them like billions of other sins. My tears dried as I gathered my blanket around me and felt Christ’s arms enfold me.
After a few minutes, I walked back to my bed and crawled in with my fleece blanket still wrapped around me like God’s sweet truth. There is no need to hold onto guilt. There is no need to continue letting memories of a past and painful time consume me to the point of distress. I was forgiven at my first confession decades ago. And Jesus took that sin to the cross with innumerable others over two thousand years ago; and there it was nailed.
Copyright February 2019
Laura L. Padgett
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