It’s one thing to forgive a friend for something stupid they did. It’s another thing to forgive yourself for all that you have secretly done to that friend that they don’t know about. Now, combine that with all the other stuff you’ve done in your life. All those secrets, both big and small, that you hold on to…well, the Bible tells us that God knows them to. More importantly, it tells us that God does not hold on to them.
Take a moment to think about all the stuff you have buried inside you; the anger, pain or lies, the little things that are eating away at your wellbeing. Now envision them disappearing for good. Those things you’ve done that you believe are unforgivable, all wiped clean so you can have a fresh start. Wouldn’t that make you feel lucky, blessed, and perhaps…happy? So, why then do we still hold on to them?
Reaching a place where you’re able to forgive someone — whether that be another person or yourself — can be extremely difficult. But the toll of not doing it can seriously affect your personal wellbeing.
Resentment can cause psychological breakdowns. Anger can lead to actual physical violence. Even a simple lie can knock us off our spiritual journey. Maybe that’s why God doesn’t holds on to them. So why do we?
We often think that forgiveness is something we do for others. But really, we do it for ourselves so we can move on. I admit, I want to be the person in this psalm. The one whose transgression is forgiven, whose sin is covered. I want to be that person because trying to carry the unbearable weight of guilt and shame has kept me from living into my best self.
But here’s the thing. The only one stopping me from living into my belovedness is me. Likewise, the only stopping you from letting go of all that junk and freeing yourself is you.
God is offering us the greatest gift, the very thing our heart desires the most. The freedom to live a life of happiness. This freedom comes from God forgiving you and me. Forgiveness from God is a clean slate, no grudges kind of love that fills you with all the goodness of God’s joy, peace, and happiness. But what good is this gift if we refuse to accept it?
The psalmist wrote, “While I kept silent, my body wasted away. All day and night, there was a heavy hand upon me. The pressure never let up.” We can hold on to our junk until we break, or we can find relief by giving all our transgressions to God.
Jesus began his ministry declaring, “Repent. The Kingdom of God is here.” He knew that repentance leads to reconciliation - with God and one another. When we repent and reconcile, we can begin to repair the damage we’ve done. Such reparations can create joy, peace and happiness to spring up in us and all around us.
Years ago, I discovered the real power of confession: in naming and claiming my sins. I learned that once I named it, I owned it. And once I owned it, I could keep it or let it go. I invite you to do the same. Name and claim the things you’re holding onto and then give that junk over to God to do whatever God does with it.
There’s true, restorative power in admitting your wrongdoing and making amends. Ask anyone who has been a part of a 12-step recovery program, just how powerful this action can be.
Martin Luther named Psalm 32 among the greatest, because it invites us to live a grace-filled life in response to divine forgiveness. This can be hard to wrap your head around if you’ve gone through life believing what you’ve done in your past is unforgivable. It’s like telling yourself that you’re not good enough, clean enough, or simply enough to be so loved by God.
Besides the damage it does to your own wellbeing, it also denies God’s grace, and renders the cross of Christ useless. Upon that cross, God said you are worthy, that you are loved. In Christ, God risked it all, not for some of us, but for everyone.
As we struggle with our own past pains and the weight of guilt or shame, may we never forget that God’s forgiveness is the highest, most beautiful form of love. The kind of love that leads us to our hearts desire.
It’s here in Anamesa, we meet God who is merciful and compassionate, slow to anger and rich in love, calls out to you. It’s here in this space between happy and heaven, we invite you to join us by opening your heart to God who has declared time and time again, “You are mine. I have molded you with my own hands, and I love what I have made.”
We are God’s beloved children. No matter how far we stray from doing what God has called us to do, we are never beyond the boundaries of God’s love and forgiveness. This is not an invitation to sin. But an invitation to a relationship that is fashioned and formed from God’s own heart.
If we are to find our happiness and blessedness, we must allow God in to touch and heal the deepest, most hidden corners of our hearts.
Lent is a time of self-examination. A time to look inward not to find fault, but to find fertile ground for transformation. As you look seriously at yourself you can nitpick every shameful and sinful action you’ve ever done and try to hide. Or you can look at Christ and see how God’s love and mercy are vastly wider than God’s anger.
As Paul wrote, “God reconciled all things to himself in Christ; not counting people’s sins against them.”
In Christ, God has committed to us so we can commit to God by practicing the way of love and forgiveness with each other.
It doesn’t do us any good to hold on to grudges, or anger or shame, just as it doesn’t do us any good to deny the gift of God’s grace that has been given to you through Christ Jesus.
Best of all, because of Christ, we can count ourselves lucky, claim our happiness, and dwell with God who says, “I love you, just as you are.”
Bartlett, David L, Barbara Brown Taylor. ed. Feasting on the Word: Year C, Vol. 2. Louisville: Westminster John Knox Press, 2009.
Macdonald, Donald I. A Pediatrician’s Blueprint: Raising Happy, Healthy, Moral and Successful Children. Petaluma: Roundtree Press, 2013.
An ex-copywriter turned punk rock pastor and peacemaker who dedicates his life to making the world a better place for all humanity.
"that they all might be one" ~John 17:21
“Prius vita quam doctrina.”
~ St. Thomas Aquinas (1225–1274)
* “Life is more important than doctrine.”