Jesus said, “Father, forgive them, for they don’t know what they are doing.” And the soldiers gambled for his clothes by throwing the dice.
My first time I walked through the doors of Al Anon was in 2000. I felt so broken, lost, and very angry at others, God, and myself.
One of the hardest steps to work through was making a searching and fearless moral inventory of myself. I had to really look at how I showed and still show up in the world, especially to those who tempt me to react out of my wounds, pains, and feelings of abandonment.
I not only had to look at the choices I made that hurt others, but the choices I made that hurt me. My longest and hardest journey was the journey inward. Why was forgiving myself the most difficult?
I want to share one of my favorite books with you, “Redeeming Love,” by Francine Rivers. There is a scene in there that hit me so deep I wept for days. I want to share that part in the book with you.
“Searching frantically, she found soap and ran for the creek. Stripping off her clothing and heedlessly casting it aside, she waded in. The icy air and water bit her flesh, but she didn’t care. All she wanted was to be clean, to wash it all away, everything from as far back as she could remember.”
A searching and moral inventory of myself opened my eyes to my own sin, and how I have shown up in the world and to others in my pain. Shame ultimately was my biggest demon to overcome. It wanted me to keep me in jail all the way down to the very young parts of me. Shame was my warden, telling me I will never be enough because I could never erase the mistakes I made, and mistakes others made against me. I gave shame permission to keep me caged.
During this time, I was in an intense nine-month inner healing program and my mentor told me that God died for me so I could be free the cage I have locked myself in. I could be free from those voices that tell me I’m not good enough and permanently damaged. But how can I be free of how I saw myself; through the rejecting behavior of others and the disappointed faces of those I let down.
My mentor told me to let God in, let him love me. She told me to go home and sit in the tub and pour water over my head while mediating on Psalms 51:10.
In Redeeming Love, Hosea sees her in the creek and pursues her. She turned our back to him, telling him to go away.
“…..He waded in and caught hold of her, yanking her to her feet. Her fists were full of gravel. Her breasts and belly where raw from scrubbing. ‘What are you doing to yourself?’”
When we have shame, what are we doing to ourselves? With our own two hands, do we give rights for us to torture our own soul?
“Have mercy on me, O God,
because of your unfailing love.
Because of your great compassion,
blot out the stain of my sins.
2 Wash me clean from my guilt.
Purify me from my sin.
3 For I recognize my rebellion;
it haunts me day and night.
4 Against you, and you alone, have I sinned;
I have done what is evil in your sight.
You will be proved right in what you say,
and your judgment against me is just.[a]
5 For I was born a sinner—
yes, from the moment my mother conceived me.
6 But you desire honesty from the womb,[b]
teaching me wisdom even there.
7 Purify me from my sins,[c] and I will be clean;
wash me, and I will be whiter than snow.
8 Oh, give me back my joy again;
you have broken me—
now let me rejoice.
9 Don’t keep looking at my sins.
Remove the stain of my guilt.
10 Create in me a clean heart, O God.
Renew a loyal spirit within me.”
I remember pouring that water on me in that tub saying these things aloud and still feeling dirty, unclean, unworthy of God’s love, and beyond redemption. It didn’t work….I didn’t work for me. I still felt that coat of shame and when I look in the mirror my shame still shows my score card of every reason I’m not enough for others, not even enough for me. I rejected myself.
Forgiveness, just like it was in my work in forgiving others, was a process in forgiving myself.
This bathtub moment marked the day I asked God for supernatural help because I could not forgive me, and I could not let myself feel forgiven.
I asked Him to create in me a clean heart and renew a loyal spirit within me even when I did not feel it. I have received Christ many times in my head, but this time, I let him reach deep into my heart, I trusted his Word, and started the journey on seeing myself the way God sees me, not the way humans do or even I do, but how God created me. I was told that the bible is God’s love story to us and started reading His word out of that perspective.
Every day I had to fight to look at myself in the mirror and say, “God, thank you for making me beautiful and for providing a way for me to turn my iniquities for the good of humanity because of my story.”
My mentor made me say that to myself for 30 days.
The first day I tried it, I felt so dumb, I couldn’t even look myself my eyes in the mirror. Each day got a little easier. By day 30, I was able to look in my eyes and smile at the reflection I saw in the mirror. Letting God love me right where I was at, in all my shame and pain, is my first experience of self-compassion.
Compassion for what I have been through, for what others have done to me, for what I did to others, and for what I did to myself. This process began my journey of forgiveness.
Letting Him into my heart and giving him permission to do as Psalms 139 states was the scariest and most freeing act I have ever done in my life.
“Search me, God and know my heart, test me and know my anxious thoughts. See if there is any offensive way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting,” Psalm 139: 23-24
In Redeeming Love, Hosea says, “You’re a bird who has been caged all your life, and suddenly all the walls are gone, and you are in the wide open. You are so afraid you that you are looking for any way back into the cage again……It’s not safer there…even if you tried to go back there, you could not survive that way again.”
It is true, I cannot. I have learned that I can only forgive others at the extent that I forgive myself. Therefore, I can only love others at the extent I love myself. To me, forgiveness and love go hand in hand. For wasn’t it by Jesus’s love for us that had him die on the cross? I may never know how deep or wide His love is for me, but during my time here on earth, I will surely try to live my life that way with everything I am.
As we celebrate Easter, seek God with all your heart, mind, and soul. Let him into the most vulnerable parts of your truth and the most vulnerable parts of your shame. God will meet you right where you are at and love you right there. He will bloom you where you are planted. His truth is what sets us free.
“Forgiveness is setting the prisoner free and discover that the prisoner was me.”
My prayer for you:
May you see yourself as God sees you, find meaning in what you see as mistakes and mess, and let God turn it for God SO you can bring help, hope, and healing to all those who know you and all those you lead and love. May He bless you and bring favor to your life. May you feel the depth of his love for you and find peace regardless the brokenness that comes from living in on this earth. May you love others as you love yourself, therefore, may you love yourself to the fullest extent possible. In Jesus name, Amen.