Today, maybe for the last few days actually, it seems like I have some words on repeat.
“I’m sorry! My fault!”
I’ve messed up and made mistakes, said the wrong thing, planned poorly, forgotten, and just generally haven’t been perfect.
Oh my, have I had a time, my friends!
Confessions are hard anyway. When is it ever easy to say, “I messed up?” or “I was wrong?” But when you’ve said it here and you’ve said it there and you’ve said it over and over in the course of a day (or two or three) to different people for different reasons, it becomes deeply humbling.
Can I get anything right?
And the temptation for me is this–to obsess. I replay the video in my head of how I got it wrong and feel anew that wave of blushing embarrassment. My internal temperature feels like its 110 degrees and my heart is racing.
Even if I can fall asleep, I wake up at 4 a.m. and review the failures relentlessly because brains go crazy in the deepest parts of the night.
That’s when the self-condemning thoughts muscle in like a posse of bullies, never letting me move along, fretting and stressing over mistakes that are been-there, done-that. There’s no way to correct them. Only thing you can do is move on.
My son is four and apologizing is hard for him. We are wading knee-deep in the mess of parenting some character issues: Being willing to say “sorry,” just take personal responsibility, receive forgiveness, give forgiveness.
He cries. He struggles. He refuses. He complies. He learns and we try it all again.
It’s a journey.
Maybe it’s a journey that I’m actually still on. I’ve apologized. I’ve fessed up and owned up. That part I’ve gotten down.
But how to un-stick myself from the mire and move along? How to start fresh, embrace mercy, and forget what’s behind so I can keep pressing forward (Philippians 3:13)?
“Come now, and let us reason together,” says the Lord,
“Though your sins are as scarlet, They will be as white as snow;
Though they are red like crimson, They will be like wool” (Isaiah 1:18 NASB).
If I know in my head that I’m washed white like snow and like the purest, cleanest wool, how come I sometimes still see the dirt and the grime and feel like a mess?
In his book, Flee, Be Silent, Pray, Ed Cyzewski writes:
….we could all do well by praying, ‘Lord, have mercy on me, a sinner.’ That’s one prayer in the Bible that we all should feel comfortable repeating daily. This simple prayer puts us in our place and acknowledges God’s great mercy for us.”
This is a verse I’m learning to pray and not just pray it, but use it as a weapon to beat back some of that pride and some of that hurtful self-talk.
Scripture is clear about what happens when we repent and ask God for mercy and forgiveness:
Therefore repent and turn back, so that your sins may be wiped out, Acts 3:19 HCSB
then he adds,“I will remember their sins and their lawless deeds no more.” Hebrews 10:17 ESV
“I, even I, am he who blots out your transgressions, for my own sake, and remembers your sins no more.” Isaiah 43:25
as far as the east is from the west,
so far does he remove our transgressions from us. Psalm 103:12 ESV
When we confess and we repent, we are forgiven completely and that sin is washed away, blotted out, forgotten, and removed.
I don’t have to hear about it anymore. God isn’t asking me to remember it, wrestle over it, feel embarrassed by it, or stress out over it.
He’s covered me in His mercy.
The tax-collector who prayed, “Lord, have mercy on me, a sinner!” in Luke 18 got it right. I’m a sinner! But I come to the God of mercy. Even if I feel unworthy, I am invited in before His throne of grace.
So, I pray this prayer in the night when I wake up to the thoughts that won’t leave me alone, replays of how I got it wrong and what I should have done to get it right.
“Lord, have mercy on me a sinner” and then I wait.
And if I still feel that wave of terrorizing shame, I pray it again, “Lord, have mercy on me a sinner” and I breathe.
God has already forgiven me. I’m just standing on that forgiveness. He’s already blanketed me with His grace, but I’m holding onto that grace. He’s declared mercy, and I’m hanging on tightly to it.
“Lord, have mercy on me a sinner”—Our loving Savior does just that.