If we say, "We are without sin," we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. If we acknowledge our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive our sins and cleanse us from every wrongdoing (1 John 1:8-9).
The reflection I posted on Sunday, March 13 was based in an experience – a sin, actually – I committed the day before, Saturday, March 12. I would not normally broadcast something like this to the world, especially because my story embarrasses me. But I make an exception in this case because I think it is important that I tell you about it.
For the past several months Nancy and I had prayed single-mindedly for a specific event to occur. And for nearly as long, all signs seemed to point to the impending fulfillment of our prayers. In anticipation, Nancy and I organized our affairs so we would be “ready” when the final act was completed. We felt absolutely certain God was working on our behalf to bring our request to fruition.
And then the proverbial hammer fell, shattering every one of our hopes.
I was devastated. Numb. Confused.
And I was angry at God.
I felt He had betrayed us, brought us to the edge of expectation, only to kick us to the ground. Even as I write this, I can hardly believe I permitted myself to think those thoughts. But I did.
Those thoughts brought with them a sense of guilt, for which I repented and made confession. But my confusion, disappointment – and my anger – lingered, nonetheless.
You might have read my post from March 9 in which I wrote of my Lenten decision to abstain from television. But on Saturday, after the hammer fell, the thought flitted through my mind to the effect: God doesn’t care much about you anyway. Go ahead and watch television. And without so much as an anemic counter-argument from me, I turned to Nancy and said, “Let’s watch a DVD.”
As it turned out, we didn’t watch the DVD because Nancy was too busy to do so. But that I didn’t turn the set on does not alter the truth that I broke my promise to God. My intent was to watch the television. Circumstances, and not my promise to God, kept me from doing so.
Sunday morning I awoke and, more from habit than desire, walked into my prayer room for my usual time of prayer and Scripture reading. I’d left off the day before at Exodus 14, which closes with the Red Sea miracle, the culmination of God’s work to free Israel from Egyptian bondage. I sat in my chair and opened the Bible to chapter 15. Then I read verse 22: “Moses led Israel from the Red Sea, and they went out into the wilderness of Shur; and they went three days in the wilderness and found no water.”
At this point, the people got angry at Moses. Three days after witnessing God’s astounding deliverance from slavery . . . and already they were grumbling.
But before I had time to self-righteously find fault with them, the Lord reminded me of how often I have seen God’s hand in my life, and yet after only three days into my Lenten promise, I got angry at God, accused Him of not caring about me -- and I broke that promise.
I sat for a while, Bible open on my lap, as that realization seeped through my spirit. And I felt terrible once again.
I share this story with you for two reasons:
First, despite my anger, despite finding fault with God, and despite justifying my decision to break my Lenten promise, I know God accepted my sacramental confession and forgave me. Of each stain. Each failure. Each blot.
Why? At great risk of sounding glib and superficial, God extended His grace to me because -- well, because He loves me. Deeply, intimately, wholly and faithfully, He loves me.
It is at times like this that I understand a little more of what that loves means.
The second reason I share it with you is because I hope to remind you – perhaps in a way you might never have heard or read before – to remind you that God also loves you. Whatever your failures, your stains, your blots; regardless of their labels and regardless of their frequency, God deeply, intimately, wholly and faithfully, loves you. And with your honest confession, every sin is utterly washed away by the blood of His Son. Not a trace remains.
We are less than a week into the Lenten season, yet I have learned more about the journey toward Easter’s Resurrection than I could have ever imagined when I set out a week ago.