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Monday, March 10, 2014

Penance


"Have I really lost my soul?
If so, I don't know where it went.
And if there's no other way back home,
I guess I might as well repent."
-SheDaisy

When I sixteen, my dad left my mother for the first time. I remember everything about that night like it was yesterday: my mother crying in her rocking chair from her darkened bedroom, my grandmother sitting on the edge of my mother's bed-her quiet presence always the "glue", and the whispering deacons of our church milling around our broken home-their sad faces offering anything but answers. I can hear my sisters crying in our living room, and see myself walking back out the front door and kneeling on the pavement of our driveway. I cried and plead with God a lot that night, because I knew that our family was part of the bedrock that made up our newly formed church. We were apart of the inner circle, and in the inner circle there was no room for error.  This costly mistake on my father's part would never do.

And as a result, we would forever be marked by the sins of our father.

And we have.

Even though I have long ago forgiven my father, the world has not. I have watched as he has been turned away at the doors of churches, seen him endure years of silence from his children, and watched as he has never quite been able to rise above the stigma he has attached to himself.

 I have also heard it said that my mistakes are his fault-bad blood, if you will. Not only does he pay for his choices everyday, but there are people in this world who would force him to pay for mine.

Yes, it would be so much easier just to blame him. To write my sins off as a bad draw from the gene pool. To chalk my heartache up to my endless "daddy issues".

And for a while, I did.

I blamed my dad. I told myself I hadn't been loyal, because he wasn't loyal. I said that I didn't know how to love someone else, because he didn't teach me. I blamed his selfishness, because that's what my mother did and it just seemed easier.

But as I sit here on my bed typing at 4:00 in the morning, I suddenly realize exactly how he must feel. How it feels to have almost the entire world against you, to be forced to pay for mistakes day in and day out, and to never be allowed to move forward, because the world has you chained to the whipping post of your sins.

Your back is bloody. The sun is hot. And the only thing you long for in the entire world is a drink of water. Water that will quench your parched soul and revive your life. Water that comes in the form of forgiveness-sweet, refreshing forgiveness.

Forgiveness that unties your hands and applies balm to your wounds. Forgiveness that has seen your penance and heard your cries for help. Forgiveness that allows you to go free and live your life without the chains of your past.

Forgiveness from a world that is SO unforgiving.

But as much as I long for forgiveness from them, I realize that in some ways I will never receive it. And while this breaks my heart, at the end of the day I have to realize that the only one whose forgiveness truly matters has long ago pardoned my sins.

He pardoned them over 3,000 years ago when He sent His only Son as a sacrifice for me and everyone else in this unforgiving world.

He wiped my slate clean that day and every day after that. He has heard my prayers, and I know without a shadow of a doubt that I am forgiven. And in the middle of my darkest nights, He pulls me into His lap, wipes my tears, and reminds me of that fact.

Because when it feels like the entire world is a against you, you just need to be reminded.

Reminded that His love and His love alone is enough to cover any weakness.

You are not bound to your sins, because He has freed you from your sins. You are not required to pay penance, because His one and only Son was your penance. You do not have to keep apologizing, graveling, and begging, because He forgave you the very first moment you whispered the words.

Yes. At the end of each and every day, I am graciously and mercifully forgiven. So, who I am to withhold that forgiveness from someone else? What makes my sins any different from your sins? Why do I choose to make the monsters hiding in your closet scarier than mine? How is that fair?

It's not.

If I have learned anything in the past few months it is that I have no right to hold anyone's past or mistakes against them, because my Heavenly Father has already forgotten mine.

And that...well, that should be enough.

Enough to forgive my father and let him off the hook for my choices, as well as his. Enough to forgive all the boys who have ever broke my heart. Enough to forgive a world that is hell bent on making me pay.

Enough to forgive myself and walk away from my past, while the rest of the world chases after me with the chains.

His forgiveness is enough.

And all I want in this life is to be a reflection of that. A reflection of mercy, grace, hope, and forgiveness.

Because there are enough sinners chaining sinners to whipping posts around here, and I shouldn't be one of them.

I should be the one untying them and offering them water. I should be the ones binding up their wounds and showing them where to lay the baggage of their past. I should be the one wiping their tears and telling them that He has heard their prayers.

That alone can be my penance.

The penance of showing a lost and dying world that there is no such thing.

2 comments:

  1. Oh, such a hard lesson, dearie. But such a beautiful one.

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