The other day, I celebrated the start of spring break and miraculously warm and sunny weather with a trip to the zoo. My daughters and I piled into the van, stopped at a park for a picnic lunch and played on the playground of all playgrounds. Then, we meandered around the zoo, my baby pointing excitedly even at empty cages, my older girls leading the way, each with a map in hand.
With the zoo finished, we flopped into our seats in the minivan, tired, content, hot and thirsty. We stopped at the first McDonald’s on the way home. A cold drink for everyone and a special treat—hot fudge sundaes.
As I handed each older girl her ice cream, I looked directly into her eyes and imparted great words of wisdom with heavy emphasis so she would know I was serious. “Don’t,” I said slowly, “spill…this…on…your…clothes.”
Moments later, my older daughter had finished her treat. She was neat and tidy. No one would suspect she had licked every drop of chocolate out of her ice cream cup.
And then I dared to peek at my other young girl—not a full look, just a slow corner-of-the-eye glance. The horror! She had turned into a monster of chocolate. It covered every inch of her visible skin and she had not one, not two—-but five (five!!!) massive splotches of chocolate on her clothes. I whined. I liked that outfit. It was a hand-me-down that had survived all last year with her older sister and now, after just one ice cream sundae, it was bound for the trashcan.
I stripped her down as soon as we got home an hour later, sprayed on my laundry stain remover for set-in stains and put the washing machine to work. It hummed, whizzed, rinsed, spun and stopped. Without much hope, I pulled the clothes out one by one and then un-crumpled the “ruined” outfit.
Those clothes were totally spotless.
I did a happy dance in the laundry room. I thanked God for all-powerful stain removers.
I paused. I stood quiet. I thanked God for all-powerful grace.
It’s a grace I struggle at times to comprehend and feel.
I fall into works-based living, expecting perfection and achieving failure.
I see the stains of sin on my heart and even when they are washed away, I still feel dirty, unusable and bound for the trashcan sometimes.
I struggle with a prison of self-condemnation. Long after I’ve repented and sought forgiveness, I feel the heaviness of guilt—no, shame really. It’s a prison of thoughts—You’re unworthy. God can’t use you. You fail, all the time you fail, same sins all the time.
That is what I feel. But, this is what I know.
“If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness” (1 John 1:9, NKJV).
” Purge me with hyssop, and I shall be clean; Wash me, and I shall be whiter than snow” (Psalm 51:7, NIV).
“He has not dealt with us according to our sins, Nor punished us according to our iniquities. For as the heavens are high above the earth, So great is His mercy toward those who fear Him; As far as the east is from the west, So far has He removed our transgressions from us” (Psalm 103:10-12, NKJV)
“There is therefore now no condemnation to those who are in Christ Jesus, who do not walk according to the flesh, but according to the Spirit” (Romans 8:1, NKJV).
God’s purpose in sending His Son Jesus to die for our sins was so that we could be cleansed, thoroughly washed clean, all sin stains removed. Why? So that our relationship with Him could be restored. He ” reconciled us to Himself through Jesus Christ, and has given us the ministry of reconciliation” (2 Corinthians 5:18, NKJV).
God’s grace produces reconciliation. Satan’s accusations—even long after we’ve repented—bow us low to the ground with shame. We become burdened with sins already forgiven and are unable to look up into God’s face any longer. We can’t walk in relationship with our Savior when we are too ashamed to match His gaze.
During His travels, Jesus met “a woman who had a spirit of infirmity eighteen years, and was bent over and could in no way raise herself up. But when Jesus saw her, He called her to Him and said to her, ‘Woman, you are loosed from your infirmity.’ And He laid His hands on her, and immediately she was made straight, and glorified God” (Luke 13:10-13, NKJV).
Christ never intends for us to stare at the dirt and shuffle around crippled by accusations and the burdens of guilt. Like the crippled woman, in my own strength, I can in no way raise myself up. Yet, He is “the One who lifts up my head” (Psalm 3:3, NKJV). He reaches down a holy hand, extending grace, His touch on my chin as He lifts up my head so I can see forgiveness in His eyes and feel the reconciliation He offers.
So many of those Jesus healed cried out to Him, asking for His help and His mercy. But this woman didn’t even yell for Jesus’s attention. He “saw her, He called her to him.” A woman bent low. A woman whose face was forever hidden. A woman with no voice.
And when He had healed her, she lifted up her new-found voice and gave Him praise.
Grace calls us to Him, calls us out of shame and Satan’s accusations of past sin. He provides the healing our hearts need so that we’re no longer bending low. We are straightened up through His strength, and then, with a testimony of thanks, we glorify God.
Don’t you love that God never convicts us of sin only to leave us crippled under its weight? He always offers grace and restoration.
He did it for Peter, the one who betrayed Jesus three times on the night He was arrested. Peter, who had sworn that even if he had to die, he would never deny Christ–now the betrayer. How Peter’s heart must have been weighed down by shame and guilt.
Yet, God extended grace to Peter.
Three women traveled to Jesus’s tomb early in the morning on the first day of the week. They had remembered the spices, but had forgotten something else entirely. Along the way, they realized they had no way to move that massive stone away from the tomb so they could even get in.
(Forgetting about things on your way somewhere—yeah, happens to me all the time.)
So, they arrived at the tomb and the door was open, the stone rolled away. The tomb empty. They stood in shock and confusion and then an angel told them, “Do not be alarmed. You seek Jesus of Nazareth, who was crucified. He is risen! He is not here. See the place where they laid Him. But go, tell His disciples—and Peter—that He is going before you into Galilee; there you will see Him, as He said to you” (Mark 16:6-7).
“Go, tell His disciples—and Peter.”
He said to them, “Don’t forget Peter. Don’t let his shame prevent his relationship with me and impede his future ministry. I have forgiven him. I’ve restored him. I’ve called him and I want him specifically to know that he is invited.”
This grace, this mysterious, incomprehensible grace, means I am fully forgiven and washed clean. Jesus doesn’t bring up my past in conversations years from now. “Remember that time when you lost your temper . . . remember that time you were jealous.” Oh no, Christ doesn’t shame me with my past mistakes. Instead, He says, “Don’t forget Peter, “Don’t forget Heather,” “Don’t forget my forgiven ones.” We’ve been redeemed and made new and while we might want to hide our heads in shame, He is the lifter of our heads and the healer of our hearts.
Heather King is a wife, mom, Bible Study teacher, writer for www.myfrienddebbie.com and worship leader. Most importantly, she is a Christ follower with a desire to help others apply the Bible to everyday life with all its mess, noise, and busyness. To read more devotionals by Heather King, click here.
Copyright © 2011 Heather King