Do you know what I love? I love knowing that what a person does in a moment of stupidity is not the ultimate truth about them from a Kingdom perspective. We are all in process. We are not home yet.
I met a woman the other day and she asked me how I was doing. I replied with what was supposed to be obvious humor, “A lot better than I deserve.” She wrinkled her nose up at me and demurred as if to have pity on me and my poor, wounded self esteem. For a split second I felt my face blush with shame. I quickly recovered and decided that she hadn’t done much of anything bad in her life, for if she knew the depth of her depravity she might not have pity on what she assumed was my self-flagellation. Instead she might have said something like, “That is true of me too, Joe.” But she didn’t identify with me, she just closed her Johari Window.
Some have asked why I call myself a ‘recovering sinner’ in my “about Joe Chambers” portion of this blog. The implication is that if you call yourself a recovering sinner you will live out of that woundedness and that would be a bad thing. One person even likened me to one of those characters on the reality show “The Big Loser” who has lost a lot of weight and looks like a new person, but if they take their shirt off you would see sagging lose skin—a hideous reminder of the former reality. So I think he was saying that on the surface I look like I have recoverd from my wound but in reality—just below the surface I still have issues self loathing. (Being overweight myself, I didn’t find that analogy particularly encouraging.)
Here is why I remind myself that I am a recovering sinner. Because infidelity is a terrible thing. It was not an act of love at any level. It was an act of violence to my wife, family, friends, church and Jesus. It was a rending of relationships. That is why I need to be reminded periodically what I am capable of doing. I could do it again given the right circumstances. I am not very far away from sin. My pathology dogs my steps almost daily. And that is Okay because the presence of my pathology forces me into daily dependence on Jesus.
It is a painful paradox. But as Paul said, “…where sin abounded, grace abounded much more.” My sin forces me into a grace-dependency. I do not sin to obtain more grace…that would be presumption. But I do remind myself of my sinful capabilities so that the joy of grace will flow into my life.
I would be foolish to “claim the blood” of Jesus and then act as if I had never done the deed. My sinful choices scarred my life and many lives. I will honor the pain by remembering and reminding myself that what I did was brutal. I will not dismiss what I did with a platitude that says, “God forgave you Joe. Don’t you think it time to forgive yourself?”
Of course I forgive myself. I will not withold forgiveness for someone that God has forgiven. Are my standards higher than God’s? Certainly not. But only God can forget. Arrogance and pride caused me believe that I could handle any situation. That was stupid. As a great philosopher once said, “Stupid is as stupid does.” The memory of my sin reminds me what it is like to be separated from my Lord and others. Sin always seperates. That is no place I want to be.
I am a recovering sinner. I am not as bad as I used to be. I am getting better every day. Any progress I have made in speaking with a Galilean accent comes from spending time with Him.
So my word to you is this: Never forget that you are loved unconditionally by the God of the universe and that what you did in a moment of arrogance or stupidity is not the ultimate truth about you. You are a favored son or daughter. But you are not home yet and you could get stupid again. You would do well to remember that.
Therefore let him who thinks he stands take heed lest he fall. 1 Cor. 10:12