December 8, 2012
Well, It’s that time of year again! You know, the time of year when we lay awake at night wondering what to purchase for people who seem to have everything. What do we get for our dads other than tools…Another shirt, a tie, some electronic gizmo that will be obsolete before he opens the box? Thank goodness women wear jewelry and perfume!! The other issue of course is how high to build the mountain of gifts for kids who tear through them in minutes wondering where the rest are. Wow that sounded sort of… kind of… big time cynical didn’t it? Sorry, sometimes the holidays get to me.
Soooooo, how about a different sort of gift? One that you can give to yourself! No need to buy it, wrap it, or deliver it! Ready? FORGIVE YOURSELF. That’s right… FORGIVE YOURSELF. “For what?” you may ask. Well it’s likely that only you and maybe a select few others know the answer to that question but let me give you some help. Forgive yourself of that nagging guilt that has been hanging around your psyche for months, years, maybe decades; that thing that when you are at your lowest the Evil One reminds you of and draws you even farther down; the thing that you would likely do differently if you had the chance; the thing that really hurt someone else and you just never felt like it was resolved. You know what I mean don’t you? I suppose it could be that you don’t have one of those “things”… but I doubt it.
Years ago I worked at a counseling center where we ran small groups like in the old Bob Newhart sitcom. Remember that show with insensitive, mean Mr. Carlin and the nutty lady who was knitting all the time? (Mrs. Bakerman I believe.) At the counseling center I mastered the phrases: “How do you feel about that” and “What I hear you saying is_____.” Man, I was good! Well we once did an exercise where the group participants were asked if they wanted to “tell us something they had never shared with anyone.” I didn’t think it would work… I was wrong! You can’t believe the things that came pouring out of people. Guilt, anger, sadness, shame and demoralizing memories that had tortured some of them for decades! One 19 year old young man told us about playing with matches when he was 6 and he caught his neighbor’s house on fire. The occupants were burned to death. He had never told anyone! 6 YEARS OLD!! How does one live with that?! I don’t know either but at some point forgiveness has to be a part of the equation. Doesn’t it?
It’s amazing to me that we are often much better at forgiving others than we are at forgiving ourselves. I know that in Matthew 6 Jesus is talking about our need to forgive others: 14 For if you forgive other people when they sin against you, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. 15 But if you do not forgive others their sins, your Father will not forgive your sins. But isn’t it also important that we receive the forgiveness of God for our own sin? And if we receive this merciful act from God… can we then turn around and refuse to forgive ourselves? After all who have we sinned against but God and God alone?
Psalm 51: 1 Have mercy on me, O God, according to your unfailing love; according to your great compassion blot out my transgressions. 2 Wash away all my iniquity and cleanse me from my sin.
3 For I know my transgressions, and my sin is always before me. 4 Against you, you only, have I sinned and done what is evil in your sight;
Friends, do yourself a favor this Christmas. Give yourself the gift of forgiveness which leads to peace and comfort. I’m not naïve… I know how difficult this can be. And I know some of you are saying “but you don’t know what I have done.” No I don’t, but the One who has forgiven you first does. There is no need to allow those overwhelming feelings of guilt to haunt you any longer. Receive Gods forgiveness… then forgive yourself. It really is the gift that keeps on giving!