Tomorrow marks an important anniversary for me. It’s something I don’t discuss publicly. And there’s not a whole lot I won’t reveal about myself, so that’s saying something. I don’t even mention it privately. So it’s kind of a big deal.
I’ve carried this burden for 17 years; the result of a mistake ontop of another mistake.
I started this blog post thinking I would talk about God’s grace and how we sometimes keep ourselves shackled by the mistakes we’ve made, long after God has already forgiven and forgotten them.
But as I write this I am overwhelmed by another, not dissimilar burden. And it has me thinking about how often we strive for comfort at the expense of our future selves.
Seventeen years ago I didn’t think about the impact that my decisions would have on future me. I only thought about the me that was in the now; when I made the first mistake, and then when I wanted to erase that mistake and so I made another one.
As a maturing Christian I know what I should do. And I’ve been down enough well-trodden paths, trials and heartaches to know that it isn’t even about following the rules or being a “good girl.” If that’s what our salvation required, we’d all be doomed to hell. Jesus said that the work on the cross is finished. There is nothing you or I could do to add or take away from it.I know I am saved and that I am forgiven for every single sin I’ve ever committed or will commit. But true obedience comes not from a sense of obligation, but from the love we have for a savior who sacrificed everything just to be with us.
God’s love is not conditional. It does not depend on what we do or not do, but on what he has already done for us and the great, unmeasurable, unfathomable love of the Father for his creation. He stands by us as we sin against him, even when those sins are willful. He’s ready to catch us when we fall because he knows the pain that comes from sin. That’s why he didn’t want us to go there in the first place.
Sometimes this understanding makes it easy to sin. I know it should make it harder. A person whose faith is strong is saddened by the way our sin causes the Holy Spirit to grieve. But if your faith is anything like mine, it ebbs and flows like the tide, but not nearly as predictably.
The enemy keeps a close eye on the ebb and flow of our faith. 1 Peter 5:8 tells us “Be alert and of sober mind. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour.” While it’s not an exact science, I believe the devil is more likely to attack with catastrophes – job loss, relationship issues, health issues, etc. – when faith is high. He is seeking to knock us off the rock.
When faith is low the enemy attacks more subtly. We are furthest from God when faith is low. A catastrophe might draw us closer to God, and satan certainly doesn’t want that. So his approach is to send us something so beautiful we fail to see (or to care!) what might be hiding beneath the disguise. “Satan himself masquerades as an angel of light (2 Corinthians 10:14).” Light can be very distracting and alluring.
It could be a relationship that hinders us in our walk with God, pulling us even farther away. Or a better paying job that takes us from our local ministry either by relocation or by eating up too much of our time. Or perhaps Satan’s trojan horse comes in the form of “success” in another way, something that’s just too good to refuse. And we are like Homer’s sailors, following the voice of the siren because God’s voice has dimmed.
In these times it is easy to not think about ourselves in the future, or how the shadows we cast today might affect us tomorrow or even years down the road.
David didn’t think of it the night he seduced Bathsheba.
I didn’t think of it seventeen years ago when I was careless and didn’t want to deal with the consequences. And I didn’t think of it two and half months ago, when I allowed myself to be led astray by someone disguised as God’s fulfilled promise.
I am grateful for God’s grace and forgiveness and I know I should accept it readily, except that I find myself not wanting to reach for it. He is holding it out to me, begging for me to come home; yet I’m holding onto the deception and praying that God make it my truth. That he would take my mistake and make it right. I don’t want to leave this man and go back to loving God if means I have to give this up.
This sin has entangled me so deeply and I am like a crab on the shoreline after the tide has ebbed, stranded on my back and floundering in the hot sun. I can see the water from where I am, but I’ve lost faith that I’ll be happier in the water. Wasn’t I there before and just as miserable, albeit in a different way? At least on the sand I am not alone.
This is where obedience is sacrifice and sacrifice is trust. I know that I know that I know I need to make my way back to the water. And on this eve of the anniversary of my most shameful memory I know the pain I am causing myself – maybe not my present day self who is benefiting from the immediate rewards – but from my future self who must deal with the pain that will come from willfully turning from God in favor of my worldly desires.
So the choice I make is a willful and reluctant one. I choose to do right, to follow God and to allow him to lead me back to the water. It’s a sacrifice and it’s going to hurt. And I may not be any happier; I may even be more miserable. But I have to trust that God knows what he’s doing. Especially when I do not.