Just tell me what I have to do and I’ll do it. I don’t care. Scrub scuzzy toilets with my toothbrush? Ok! Walk barefoot over a mile of broken glass? Well…alright. Cover myself with sackcloth and ashes to show how sincere I am that I want to do better? Yes! I can do that. Anything. Just make this feeling go away.
You know the feeling. The one where you’ve been busted. You thought you had it all figured out, covered all your bases, did everything just right. But you didn’t. Someone saw. God saw. And now as everything is coming apart at the seams. Life has become a train wreck you can’t even look away from, you’ll do darn near anything to stop it before it gets to that point.
Darn near anything…except admit that You. Did. It. I did it. Yep, me. I screwed up, and look at the colossal mess it’s made for me…and for people around me. Not that. I’d rather die than do that. So please, tell me what to do to fix this!
And don’t give me that “repent” business. Please. While I’m being brutally honest here, I might as well just say that I’m not really all that sorry for what I did, I’m just sorry that it blew up in my face now that I’m standing here in the mess of it. See what I did there? I’ve even made myself a passive observer of my own sins, like I could actually nudge the person next to me and say under my breath, “Wow…she really messed that one up.” Repent? You’ve got to be kidding.
So I deflect. Those people. Those sins. Not mine. Definitely not mine. Look over there. Squirrel! The gays! The fornicators! The abortionists! Those people really need some Law. They need to be told how to be good Christians because they’re really messing up the world. Look at our culture, it’s swirling ever closer to the proverbial drain. Don’t look at me. Please don’t look at me.
Me, I just need my list. And then with my handy-dandy notepad, I can check off when I’ve done what I need to do and know that it’s done and I’m getting better. I’ll be that person with two checkmarks on my list, and that’s at least better than that loser who only has one. Or that poor sot who’s still scrambling to find a list as their sins tear them up.
I already have a list though. All of us. It only has 10 items on it too. “Here consider your station according to the Ten Commandments, whether you are a father, mother, son, daughter, master, mistress, a man-servant or maid-servant; whether you have been disobedient, unfaithful, slothful; whether you have grieved any one by words or deeds; whether you have stolen, neglected, or wasted anything, or done other injury.”
Oh boy. Yeah, I have. Just look at my life. And look at how I’ve tried to cover up my sins. And how the more I try the worse I’ve made it. Ugh. That feeling is coming back…
But, it was me. I did it. I can’t run from it anymore. This is my life after all. And I have been disobedient. I’ve been unfaithful. Actual sloths are green with envy over my slothfulness. Grieved others with my words AND my deeds. Yes. I can’t deny it. You pick a commandment, I’ve broken it.
Oh wait…I see what you did there. You sneaky, sneaky Holy Spirit! I just got repented. Instead of digging in and pulling myself up by my bootstraps to do better and get about the work of sinning less, I ended up doing something different, going another way. You turned me around and made me look into that blasted mirror. You got me to confess!
Now I’ve had to look at that the steaming pile of destruction and pain that I was “nobly” working hard to cover up. Yup, that’s mine. But I can’t let on that it is. No one can know how bad I really am – even though many probably already do. I need that checklist now, more than ever! That’s how I can still at least look like I’m better than I really am, and maybe even delude myself for a little while…
So, um…if everyone would do me a favor and please just look the other way while I casually kick some grass over this to hide even the scent of it. (I learned this trick from Adam: If God catches you in your sin, hide it with some greenery.) God’s not fooled though. He knows, nothing can be hidden from Him. That probably just made it worse. Ugh. How does one brace oneself for the condemning wrath of God?
Well, Jesus sweat blood that night in Gethsemane. Wait…Jesus. Jesus!! Jesus already paid the price for my sins! God’s not going to condemn me for what Jesus has already died for, right? He can’t, that was the whole point of Jesus dying, after all. My sins, all of them, even those ones I’m horrified about – especially those – are forgiven. That’s all real, right? It has to be. Oh dear Jesus, it has to be! I’ve got nothing else.
“Do you believe that my forgiveness is God’s forgiveness?” my pastor asks.
Well, Pastor, since I really don’t care about your forgiveness and wouldn’t be admitting any of this if that’s all you had for me… duh. “Yes!” That’s why you wear the fancy robes and God put you here, after all.
“Let it be done for you as you believe. And I, by the command of our Lord Jesus Christ, forgive you your sins in the name of the Father and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. Amen. Go in peace.”
Sandra Ostapowich is a member at Faith Lutheran Church in Plano, TX. She is also the Conference and Retreat Executive of Higher Things.