It is very hard for me to admit when I’ve done something wrong. There’s always an excuse I can give to justify my actions, or at least throw others off the trail until they figure out I really am guilty of whatever I did.
If I talk to you long enough you may not recognize the ugly truth anymore with all the layers of stories piled on top of it. But it’s still there, hiding its eyes so you can’t see it.
I’m a sinner.
Most people don’t use that word anymore. But for four years now, since I started going to Celebrate Recovery, I am aware every day of the state of my heart and soul.
There’s an old-fashioned word that I think captures the essence of sin, and that’s trespass. As in “forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us.” A couple meanings of trespass are: ‘to make unfair claims on or take advantage of’, and ‘to commit an offense against’.
And one from the Greek meaning of sin, ‘to miss the mark’, like in archery.
Four years ago I found myself at CR every week reciting either the twelve steps or the eight principles of recovery. They included some things I was uncomfortable saying, but I figured I’d get used to it soon.
Realize I’m not God; I admit that I am powerless to control my tendency to do the wrong thing and that my life is unmanageable. (Principle 1)
See what I mean? Well obviously I’m not God, but powerless? Unmanageable? That was, and still is sometimes, the hardest thing for me to admit.
I’m not going to give details, but when I was a very little girl, I was taken advantage of by a teenage boy in my church family. It went on for a while, and I never told anyone about it. Finally someone saw something questionable happening, and it ended.
But not for me. Because I had gotten used to the wrong behaviors, and I felt a very misguided affection for him. Others would later abuse my innocence and trusting nature, and again I never told. For almost fifty years.
No one knew my struggles to know right from wrong, so I made my own definitions, and justified any bad feelings I had about my actions.
In my mind I always blamed the adults, my parents included, who let a teenage boy take me away from everyone else, out into the dark night, week after week. I decided that I would never be unnoticed again. So I got loud, I forced my natural shyness down deep and learned to act brave and sassy. And at six years old people thought it was cute.
But at least they knew when I was no longer in a room.
I was managing just fine on my own.
Almost fifty years later I went to my first CR meeting, then started doing a Step Study where I had to dig deep into those secrets and bring the truth to light. I was really bad at it. I struggled to face my past, and even more to start naming some of the unfair claims made on me, ways I’d been taken advantage of, offenses committed against me.
When I first started facing the facts, and the feelings that came with them, I experienced rage like I had never known. I was furious that anyone could do to a child things I’d held secret inside me most of my life. It was a relief to finally speak the truth out loud in a safe setting, and it was torture to admit that I had been abused by people I cared about and who I thought cared about me.
And right there I saw how powerless I was, how impossible it had been to manage my experiences and feelings and behaviors, because none of them were based on truth.
And I had not even begun to look at my own wrongs. But I did have to start facing the sin in me, the ways I had taken advantage, the offenses I had committed. And it was not possible to do it in my own power.
I needed a power greater than myself. Thank you, God!
We humans share a fatal flaw. Sin. And the bad things we do to each other are not the worst. It’s how we treat God.
I have claimed a relationship with God for many years, but I have taken advantage of him, as if he owed me peace and joy and every other good thing just because he created me. In many ways I have put myself in the place God should be, in what I thought was control of my life. I have downplayed my offensive words and actions, I’ve ignored the Spirit when he prompts me, or purposefully turned away from where I felt him leading me.
I miss the mark. Big time.
I’ve been thinking a lot this week about Jesus. I am powerless, but he is all powerful. I cannot keep my little life moving in the right direction, and he set the earth on its axis and sustains it by his will. And when I mess up, there is nothing I can do to ever make it right again. I cannot undo the effects of even one wrong thing. Because my actions affect others, and I am powerless to control how they experience those consequences. And once I’ve done something, or something has been done to me, I am bound to it, unable to remove the memories,the feelings, the guilt.
There’s another word, one I love to define. Redeem: ‘to buy the freedom of’.
How much would it cost to pay for all the damage I’ve done? To release me from bondage to my fickle passions?
If you sit in a service on Good Friday, let the reality of what Jesus experienced in the beatings, the mocking, the thorns, the weight of the cross, the nails, the face of God turned away, all rest on your shoulders. Maybe like me you will know the impossibility that I have any power to fight my sinfulness alone.
And to grasp the price that was paid? I cannot. How could he think me worthy?
But is there any other explanation?