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A Lesson in Forgiveness
When my fiance and I first started dating, we made a pact to never lie to one another. Not only did we want to glorify God in our relationship, but we wanted to honor the other person. Even if it was painful or hard to admit the truth, that was something we decided on early into our dating journey.
One day, however, we were playing board games with another couple and my fiance jokingly lied to me. I didn’t want him to eat any more candy, and when my friend snuck him a piece, I was hurt. It was just a piece of candy, but the lie stood out in my mind. While I was angry at first, and he did apologize, I thought maybe I was overreacting.
Later that night, my fiance came to me heartbroken. He was so upset with himself for lying to me and noted that even though it was just a piece of candy, he wanted to be faithful and honest with me about the little things in life. It didn’t seem like much, but that statement struck me hard later that year when we faced circumstances much more challenging than sugary candies.
The Measure of Faithfulness
Over the last four and a half years, my fiance and I have experienced many highs and lows in our relationship. And while I wish that small disagreement about a sugary sweet was the worst of our concerns, that wouldn’t be truthful. Relationships of any kind take hard work, especially romantic ones.
But throughout our years together, we have learned that honesty truly is the best policy in the little and the big things. Forgiving white lies may seem easy now, but I promise you that when they envelop in hidden secrets, they are much more difficult to process.
What I didn’t foresee troubling my soul, however, was the measure of faithfulness and forgiveness to myself.
The Price it takes to Forgive
In Hosea chapter 2, God speaks of charges against Israel. Through the illustration of Hosea and his wife (a prostitute), these are marriage vows broken, adultery at its finest. Lies worse than my fiance and I could ever exchange.
And so, Hosea’s children with the prostitute were not loved by God to illustrate how Israel turned to other gods. Just like them, we sold ourselves and searched for satisfaction in things we would never find true happiness, joy, or contentment.
“And I will not love her children, for they were conceived in prostitution. Their mother is a shameless prostitute and became pregnant in a shameful way. She said, ‘I’ll run after other lovers and sell myself to them for food and water, for clothing of wool and linen, and for olive oil and drinks” (Hosea 2:4-5, New Living Translation)
Hosea’s wife depicts this well when she chooses her own way instead of the Lord’s. Like the lost prodigal son, however, after squandering her way, she returns to Hosea (and us to God), thinking it was better off.
“When she runs after her lovers, she won’t be able to catch them. She will search for them but not find them. Then she will think, ‘I might as well return to my husband, for I was better off with him than I am now.’ She doesn’t realize it was I who gave her everything she has—the grain, the new wine, the olive oil; I even gave her silver and gold. But she gave all my gifts to Baal. “But now I will take back the ripened grain and new wine I generously provided each harvest season. I will take away the wool and linen clothing I gave her to cover her nakedness. I will strip her naked in public, while all her lovers look on. No one will be able to rescue her from my hands” (Hosea 2:7-10, New Living Translation).
“At least here I have food.”
“At least with Him I am given what I need.”
“At least at home, I will not be taken advantage of.”
But our God is not a “better off” or “at least” kind of God. Gomer thought better off, not realizing all the true blessings from God. And like her, we gave them away (time, treasure, and talents spent on other things). God stripped her bare. But then—God would win her back again and give her hope (and us). Wiping clean the slate and never mentioning it again, He’d bless her, marry her, and be faithful. She’d finally know Him as Lord, and He would ultimately show her love.
“But then I will win her back once again. I will lead her into the desert and speak tenderly to her there” (Hosea 2:14, New Living Translation).
And in an odd sense, this story really got me thinking.
Because as horrific as it might sound, we are all prostitutes.
God pledged and dedicated Himself to us as a husband does a wife, yet we abandoned Him and turned to other gods (just like Israel and Judah and Hosea’s wife who ran to other lovers and illustrated this message). We committed adultery. Not just once, but like a whore.
In our sin, we turned to other gods–things more fun–our own way:
-People and relationships
-Hobbies and talents
-Compulsions and addictions
-Even good gifts He gave us to glorify Him
We searched for satisfaction in places we could not find relief:
-Perfection and striving
-Good deeds and routine prayers
-Religion over a relationship
-I do’s instead of He’s already done
And like Israel with Baal and Hosea’s wife with many men, we sold ourselves to lovers who never really loved us, and never ever would.
What Does It Cost?
I wonder how many things I have sold myself to. How many things you and I have given our time, talents, and adorations instead of the Lord? And this got me thinking about myself and the places I would rather not return to my memory.
Shadows about my past.
Dim lights about my present.
Doom regarding my future.
Because if I am honest, recalling those recollections scares me. And not because of monsters, but because of the reality that I do not want my life to continue the way it is– physically and mentally deteriorating.
So I started wrestling with a question.
A big question that has perhaps haunted me for years, but that I have never really taken the time to unpack. And the question is this:
Have I forgiven myself?
Can I Forgive Myself?
For when I look at my past, present, and future in this depressed and anxious state, all I can see are the marks in red. The failures, the sins, the addictions, the white lies, the big lies, and the inability to give up control.
Sometimes I begin to wonder; maybe I really am being punished for my past. And I have to stop myself and see another set of marks.
My name in the Lamb’s Book of Life.
Covered by the red blood that flowed down a rugged cross for my sins.
And never to be seen again.
And those I still suffer.
Because if my God and our God of the Scriptures have taught me anything, it is this:
If He ran after the prostitute, He runs after me.
If He ran after the cheater, He runs after me.
If He ran after the liar, He runs after me.
If He ran after the anxious, He runs after me.
If He ran after the idolatrous, He runs after me.
If He ran after the broken, He runs after me.
If He ran after the doubtful, He runs after me.
And so, like Hosea’s wife, we stumble our way back to God. Usually, and especially when we have reached a place of total surrender that we did indeed “get it wrong,” and need Jesus and only Jesus to take cover.
We think “at least with God I had it better than ______,” but He says, “I’ve got so much more in store, my child.” For when we have reached that place of stark nakedness–of I cannot do this, I need you–we finally realize the beauty and grace of His forgiveness–enough to forgive ourselves.
Not because I feel it.
Not because I earned it.
Not because I deserve it.
But because He said I am.
For if a perfect God can look at Hosea’s wife, and you and me, and never again mention our sins, why would we? Why would we withhold forgiveness from ourselves when He has given us a new name?
We are not that powerful. We never will be. And to think that we are is mere foolishness. So why cause ourselves unnecessary anguish and strife?
Today, I declare that I forgive myself–not because I forget, or it is easy, or even that I deserve it. But because my God says I will find you, heal you, and make you whole. And never again will I see those sins now or forever. The old is gone. The new has come.
That’s the gift of true salvation, repentance, and forgiveness, my friend. I encourage you to take hold of it today.
The blood is louder than the sins.
The past, present, and future.
It’s only by the blood.
“When that day comes,” says the Lord, “you will call me ‘my husband’ instead of ‘my master.’ O Israel, I will wipe the many names of Baal from your lips, and you will never mention them again” (Hosea 2:16-17, New Living Translation).