Have you ever found yourself replaying the blooper reel of your life, only you’re not laughing?
It seems the highlight tape — all the moments where you really shined — has been lost or erased and the only film left is your missteps, failures, and blatant rebellious choices?
And you watch it over. and over. and over.
Yeah, I’ve been attending a private viewing for a while, so when our pastor opened up Titus on Sunday morning and started ticking off all the requirements for leaders in the church — being hospitable, self-controlled, upright, disciplined — and all the disqualifiers — being arrogant, quick-tempered, insubordinate, or greedy– I knew right where to cue up examples of how I have blown it and have proven myself to be unfit for the call, which is ironic, since my husband and I have spent our entire adult lives in church work. It wasn’t long into the sermon when I found myself slinking down into the pew, buried under the weight of conviction.
And at 52 years of age, it’s tempting to think “I’ve ruined it all. I can’t go back. I’ve caused so much damage.” And once that thought has formed, it threatens to become a truth that one might believe, even cling to.
So, I was sitting there slunk down, feeling pretty pitiful, when I heard the words, “to the redeemed, all things are redeemed.” I wrote them down; my ears perked up.
I heard my pastor admitting his tendency to be so exceptionally hard on himself, afraid that he will get it wrong and fail his family, his church, his God. He said that when he had admitted this to a friend earlier in the week, the friend had replied, “If you are teaching your child how to ride his bike and he falls down, don’t you run to him and say, ‘it’s ok, we’ll try again.'” And I could see the scene: I could see my pastor bending down to his child, scooping him up, wiping his tears, and speaking those words of encouragement.
And as I saw my human pastor in my mind’s eye, I simultaneously saw my Father, looking at my blooper reels. I heard Him say, “It’s ok. You can try again.”
And then, while I was still taking in that image, I heard my pastor say, “Every failure has been wiped clean because we are in Christ.”
And then we were receiving communion.
And then I heard myself singing: Let no one caught in sin remain/ inside the lie of inward shame/ but fix our eyes upon the cross/ and run to Him who showed great love/ and bled for us/ freely he bled for us (full song here.)
And I was choking on the words because they were what I needed to hear. Inward shame is a lie. I have been caught in sin, but I don’t have to remain there, wallowing, slinking, hiding.
All has been redeemed.
If I believe that Christ died for my sins, then I believe that my sins are paid for — they are redeemed. I don’t owe a penalty.
It sounds really cheesy and Sunday school-ish.
Unless it’s true.
And it is.
Tonight, a full 36 hours after the pew slinking and song singing, I was reading Anne Lamott’s Help, Thanks, Wow, and I saw this prayer:
I am just a mess.
It is all helpless.
What else is new?
I would be sick of me If I were You, but miraculously, You are not.
I know I have no control over other people’s lives, and I hate this. Yet I believe that if I accept this and surrender, You will meet me wherever I am.
Wow. Can this be true? If so, how is this afternoon — say two-ish?
Thank You in advance for Your company and blessings.
You have never once let me down.
And I think to myself, didn’t He just meet me where I was yesterday? Say noon-ish? And didn’t He prove again that He will never let me down?
He sure did.
Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus