Friday, October 14, 2011

Known by the Scars - Forgiving Ourselves

A Devotional by Margot Cioccio

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 Psalm 103:10–14

10  He does not deal with us 
according to our sins,
nor repay us according to our iniquities.
11  For as high as the heavens 
are above the earth,
so great 
is his steadfast love 
toward those who fear him;
12  as far as the east 
is from the west,
so far does he remove 
our transgressions from us.
13  As a father shows compassion to his children,
so the Lord shows compassion 
to those who fear him.
14  For he knows our frame;
he remembers that we are dust. 
He remembers that we are dust....
I had a difficult day and have accomplished very little. All day I have had a sinus headache that nothing has seemed to touch. Made of dust and afflicted by dust or pollin or mold maybe the change in the atmosphere. I don't know what my problem has been today but I am glad that the Lord knows my frame. He knows that I have good days and I have day that I struggle. I know that the Lord shows compassion to me but it is very hard for me to give myself much grace. I am always pushing myself in one way or another. I should have just gone back to bed today but I kept trying to get my head together and I wandered through my day in a painful kind of fog.  I'm still dealing with the lingering effects of it. 
This may not be my most inspired post, but someone suggested that I write about forgiving ourselves for the past. So I find myself sitting here wondering if there are things that I have not forgiven myself for from the past. I don't like those kinds of probing questions. If someone were to ask me a question like that I would find a way to turn the focus of the discussion off of myself. The questions would linger and bother me for a while until I could figure out why. The past is very fuzzy to me. I think because when I have been through traumatic or difficult things I have always had to be the strong one. Maybe I have not needed to be but I thought that I had to play that role. It is often very long afterwards that I get around to processing things.  I suppose I have not really forgiven myself for all the things I have stuffed and blocked and chosen not to deal with. I am thankful that the Lord is very patient with me and in some quiet moment He will take me and help me see some neglected place that I have not really let Him into. I'm also thankful that He does not make me do too much navel gazing. When He does it is with great compassion, and understanding. He knows I am dust.
It is difficult to forgive ourselves when we have fallen short of our own expectations, feel we have failed God or the people we love. If we don't forgive others we open ourselves up to torment. You might read The Parable of the Unmerciful Servant and remember that the story ends with the following comment."This is how my heavenly Father will treat each of you unless you forgive your brother from your heart." That story is about us needing to forgive others the way the Lord forgives us. Most of us can at least agree that we should forgive even if we are not always able to. I generally tell people who are stuck and unable to forgive someone that forgiving them does not mean that what they did to you was ok, it does not trivialize the wrong of it. It does acknowledge that you understand that the Lord has forgiven you and to follow Him I must forgive those who have wronged us in some way.  

The topic however is not about forgiving others but is about forgiving ourselves. He does not deal with us according to our sins, nor repay us according to our iniquities. When we choose Jesus we don't get what we deserve. You may feel you've been dealt a lousy hand in the game of life. Some of the things that happen to us are not fair. Some things leave scars that don't go away. The wound will heal but the scars remain to tell the story. I'm reminded of an old song called Known By The Scars by Michael Card. The chorus says "The marks of death that God chose never to erase. The wounds of loves eternal war. When the kingdom comes with its perfected sons. He will be known by the scars. 
I sometimes wonder why God just does not step in and prevent us from getting damaged and broken in the first place. I've concluded that before we were broken we didn't think we needed Him. We were convinced that we could handle things on our own. My thoughts turn to think of my own brokenness and how God so tenderly takes all the shattered pieces and lovingly takes what seems to be hopelessly beyond repair and puts it together in a new way. That is one of the reasons I love making mosaics. They give me hope. I can take broken stuff and turn it into something beautiful. God the master artist does that with us. Once we come to the end of our self sufficiency and humbly admit we need help, He steps in to help us.  

I look at my own scars and wonder if I am somehow defined or known by them. They are a reminder not just of the things that caused the brokenness but more so of all the places that the Lord has healed. To some those scars may seem to be ugly, shameful things, to be hidden. I know I have looked at my own battered heart with distain at times. What would God want with something so mangled and broken. I am coming to see that those scars must be somehow beautiful to the Lord. They are marks of death that He has chosen not to erase.
I know that I often minister out of my brokenness. Its not me but God who pours his compassion out to others. Because of my own scars, I can understand, I can be trusted. I think there is something to being known by our scars. People with similar scars seem to be able to connect in a deeper way. Its an odd thing. God delights to use broken vessels. So great is his steadfast love toward those who fear him; as far as the east is from the west, so far does he remove our transgressions from us. 
I don't know if my post has touched a nerve for you or not. If the Lord is speaking to you about something take the time to let Him in. He can be trusted. Sometimes the process of healing can be painful. Wounds that need cleaned and stitched. Bones that need to be set. Sometimes limbs must be removed. There may even be echos of what has been lost or removed. I'm not sure they ever go away, forgiveness and repentance make them less painful but they seem to be another kind of scar.  

Dear Lord, 
We come to you broken, wounded, and damaged. Its a mix of things that has caused it. Some of it is our own fault some the fault of others.  Lord we don't begin to know how to fix it. It has in many cases taken us a long time to give up on our own devices to fix our selves and to finally turn to you. Will you come now and mend and heal us. Will you come and restore hearts, minds and bodies that are damaged by the battlefield of the fallen world we live in. Will you make a way where there seems to be no way. Help us to forgive others, thank you for forgiving us and help us to release it now and forgive ourselves. Will you come and make the rough places smooth. Will you help us to not look at the scars with disdain but with thankfulness for your tender mercies, your grace and your love.


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