forgive me...

Monday, June 23, 2008

i am about to be unashamedly long winded.

this past week i have been challenged to prepare a small bible study and i have been horribly stumped. the pat, *christian* topics have crossed my mind and i have been tempted to fall back on them...but that wouldn't be fair - to the listener or to me.

so i've waited. and prayed. and waited. worried. waited. prayed. gave up.

and then tonight, as i was having my bath, the topic and all it entailed was right there in front of me. well, i guess the bubbles were right in front of me, but if it had been written plainly in front of my face on the tiled wall, i wouldn't have been shocked.


i have wrestled with the idea of mistakes for a long time. a really long time. because i have made a lot of them. some of them quite publicly.

it's those public mistakes that get me. oh, they get me. the secret mistakes, the hidden sins are so easy to cover up. but the public ones are up for grab. not just by myself, but by those around me. and not even those around me, by those who aren't even in my circle. and that's when it gets dangerous. because it is when it hits those who don't know me, but know *of* me, that the truth, the mistakes, get distorted by hatred, by gossip, by maliciousness.

so, it is to you, those who read my blog with mean intent that i dedicate this post. for while you don't know me, while you continue to spread slander and untruth and lies to those around you and i, i need to reach out to you and say this:

"you meant evil against me, but God meant it for good". (gen 50:20)

there are three significant, biblical figures that jumped in front of me tonight as i thought of mistakes. mine in general. as i called out to the One Who knows each detail, each tear, each reason for my mistakes, he brought 3 faces in front of my own who i have never seen but believe fully that i would recognize in an instant. you see, they've been where i'm at.

the first is joseph. the man who spoke the words that i have quoted above. the man who started out as a young boy given visions but who allowed pride to step in the way. the young man who was thrown into a pit by his own brothers, sold into slavery, falsely accused, sent to prison, forgotten, remembered, elevated to a position of influence that in the end, allowed him to save the very brothers who had tried to kill him.

God meant the maliciousness used against him for good.

do you realize that you have thrown me into a pit? that with each hate-filled word you have made the pit seem deeper? do you realize the weight of the cloak of shame that i have allowed myself to wear because i believed that you were right... that i wasn't worthy of forgiveness.

and so like the second dear face, i have chosen to go to the public places in town at times when i know that few people will be around. my dear sister whose pain i feel so deeply, but whose name i don't know wandered the same lonely road.

i've wondered about her...the samaritan woman. married 5 times, living with a man who wasn't her husband. shunned. shamed. alone.

as each year passes and distances my present self from my former self, i find the need and importance of strong female friendship. there was a time when quite the opposite was true. i was desperate to be loved and looked for my worth and acceptance in the eyes of men. and as i watch my friend wander the dusty path to the well, i have to wonder at the desperation inside of her. the cry for love from a man, but the never-ending ache to connect at the heart with another woman. to feel the tenderness and encouragement that can only come through a true friend.

and then He enters the picture.

my heart quickens at the thought of Jesus sitting there, waiting for her, knowing that past her cynicism was a heart yearning to be loved. and once that love was poured in, she would frantically run back to those in town who shunned her and introduce them to the One who forgave her.

"come, see a man who told me everything i ever did. could this be the Christ?" (john 4:29)

can you hear the excitement in her voice as she says those words? was she practically vibrating as she shouted excitedly "he told me everything i ever did!"? there were those in town who thought they knew everything she ever did, but only One really did. there is freedom, there is no shame when Jesus sits down with you and goes through each of your mistakes. she experienced that. i am too.

as i sit here i am practically vibrating with excitement as i write out these words to you. He knows everything i have ever done! every mistake, every sin, everything! and despite all the ugliness, all the pain, all the shame...He loves me! He has forgiven me! He has reconciled me to Himself through Christ's death and i am presented "holy in His sight, without blemish and free from accusation."! (colossians 1:22)

the third face is the one my heart recognizes the most. hers is the most public of shame. and as she cowers, naked and vulnerable in front of her accusers, i cower with her, for i have been there to. i know the vulnerability, the embarrassment of having ones sins laid bare before those in authority. i know intimately the feeling of impending slaughter. oh how it know it.

as He bent down to draw in the sand, i wonder if she felt abandoned by the One Who could possibly save her. i know i did. when i desperately longed to see His face, to see that i mattered to Him, i instead saw the faces of my accusers, could only hear their angry words. i felt left hanging. His silence seemed to hurt more then the angry noise around me.

and then He spoke. both into her life and into mine.

i imagine after speaking the famous words of being without sin and casting the first stone, He turned to her and paused. Jesus tends to pause before He speaks into my life and i like to think that it is so His words sink in a bit deeper. maybe He wanted the same thing for this wounded daughter.

"woman, where are they? has no one condemned you?" (john 8:10)

was she looking at the ground when He tenderly spoke these words? did her eyes need to be drawn upwards to see that there was no one there?

i remember the first time the importance of what Jesus said sunk in. it was when your words began to get back to me and my eyes seemed to be fixed permanently on the ground. Jesus was the only One who had the right to condemn her. do you see that? Jesus is the only One who has the right to extend judgment into her life, into my life and into yours.

and instead of condemning her, He lovingly assured her by saying:

"then neither do i condemn you...go now and leave your life of sin." (john 8:11)

it's amazing to me, the power of the negative word. and i have believed yours for a very, very long time. but i want to say to you today: my shame has been covered by the tenderness of my Protector. my loneliness has been taken away by my Friend.

what you have meant for harm, God truly is using for good.