A Recovering Sinner

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


9 thoughts on “A Recovering Sinner

  1. These are sage words that can only come from the Theology developed by one who has “been there”. Most excellent Joe!

    We love, forgive and reconcile by His GRACE alone.

    I love you Joe.


  2. A good reminder of how a stumble can prevent a fall. Staying close to our memories of failure can definitely distance us from failing to live up to our true calling as a son of the most high king.
    Thanks Joe.

  3. You are spot on Joe. . . I have said to more than one person, I would give anything to undo what I have done, to wipe away the consequences of my poor choices, especially from those that I love and hurt the most through all this, but I wouldn’t trade the lessons that I’ve learned and still am learning for anything. His grace is sufficient, but only for this moment. I cannot recover alone. I’ve been alone most of my life and I won’t be alone anymore. As flawed as human fellowship is, it’s the best I’ve got. As the first tradition states clearly (a principle I wish the church would get) “personal recovery depends upon AA unity” hmmmmmmm where have we heard that principle before? My counselor LaVerne at WATCh told me that there would come a day when I would recognize and accept my alcoholism and my felony as God’s gifts to me. Alcoholism for sure. . . I think I’m starting to understand what the author of The God Players wrote: when we kiss the chains that bind us, they fall off. And my felony. . . I’m slowly learning to accept that as well. Each day when I have to deal with a consequence of my poor decisions . . . everytime I get on my bike when I would have climbed into my car, when I have to call the pre release hotline to see if I have to provide for a random UA, etc. I’m going to copy in your blog to several of my friends–broken, recovering sinners just like you and me who need the hope that your wisdom offers. thanks Joe.

  4. Good one Joe!! I showed the end of the Passion of Christ [Mel Gibson] to the college class at our church on Easter morning. Wow!! after seeing what Jesus had to go through for all of our sin at Calvary it just goes to show that all of sin is a rending of relationships. I am so glad that when we become God’s child that he doesn’t get mad and kick us out — He sticks with us and sees us through to a beautiful restoration!! Yipeeeeeeeee!!!! Hey that Robbie is getting to be quite the Mother Teresa…cool!

  5. Joe, The manner in which you speak is very eloquent and full of meaning. I enjoy it because honestly, I have to re-read sentences just to make sure I fully understood what you said! I agree and find encouragement in your theme, though I am not sure I understand your thoughts on the woman you encountered. I would think that someone who understands that they are just as morally corrupted as the next person would have a more sympathetic reaction to what you said versus a person who was less aware of their own corruption and saw you whipping yourself….hmmmm…
    Regardless, I am grateful for God’s grace because I am stupid on a daily basis. 🙂

  6. I guess what I was trying to say was that this woman’s pity on my comment and me seemed to show that she hadn’t yet faced her own deep depravity for she most likely hadn’t broken one of the “Big Ten” in the Old Testament.

    A recovering drunk understands that they are frog’s hair away from falling “off the wagon.” A teetotaler can’t understand the battle of alchohol for a drunk. Often they just have pity. And pity can mask self-awareness.

    The truth is that lady is just as depraved as I am, but she just doesn’t realize it yet because she has never expereinced the full weight of her sin…yet.

    I doubt this cleared anything up. But thanks for commenting.

  7. Great commentary Joe. Grace and forgiveness are the true mystery but one we must just accept in humility. In this world and flesh we cannot understand the beauty of divinity toward our unworthiness but thank the Lord for it. I am not even worthy of God”s acknowledgement let alone the depth of His grace. God bless you and yours, you are forgiven and so am I. Sadly,sinning seems to be a natural inclination and my one true talent. God bless all.

  8. I wish I were as thoughtful when facing my own sin as I am not nearly as magnanimous with others’ failings as I am with my own. It has taken me years to come to terms with my battle with gluttony. It is just as destructive to my family and my body as alcohol or drug addiction and yet it is more socially acceptable, so I am sure I put it lower in a hierarchy of sin. It is still the cause of the stripes He took for me.

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