Sorry for the lack of post over the weekend – I was involved in a CVM Mens day. What is below is a version of the challenge I gave at the end. It involved me sharing a story that I have never told anyone before because I was/am so embarrassed by it. Sometimes things must come out into the light…
When I was a young teenager I was at a church event. The family of one of the church members were visiting and at the event. I was hanging out with the other youth and the lad from this family walked by, he was about the same age as me. He was disabled and as he walked one of his legs dragged behind him. As he walked past our group we all stopped and stared. And then when he was gone I, in all my wisdom, did an impression of his walk. The whole group laughed, until we looked up and saw this lad standing at the end of the corridor watching us. Then my friends rounded on me and berated me. I tell you this story for one reason – it still haunts me. Even though it was 20 years ago and the man writing this is totally different to that attention seeking arrogant teenager I still wake up feeling guilty and shameful. How can I call myself a Christian? How can God love me when I could do that? And as I deconstruct myself more memories of my failings assault me. Times when I didn’t measure up, when I deliberately went against God.
Damien Rice sings a song called ‘I remember’ and in it is the line ‘God will forgive me but I whip myself!’ And that’s the rub isn’t it. God can forgive us but if we can’t forgive ourselves we will struggle with our perseverance. In Romans 5 Paul says this: ‘Not only so, but we also rejoice in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope. And hope does not disappoint us, because God has poured out his love into our hearts by the Holy Spirit, whom he has given us.’ When we can’t forgive ourselves we suffer but suffering can produce perseverance as long as we don’t dwell to long in the pit of suffering. Unfortunately that is a place many of us like to dwell.
Jesus tells us that we are the light of the world, and that we should not hide that light. When we wallow in self pity, shame and guilt we are effectively hiding our light. The thing is the light that is inside us is greater than the darkness that surrounds us – because that light is Jesus. The only person who can diminish the light inside us is ourselves! There is a quote in the film Night Watch that says this: ‘It is easier for a man to destroy the Light inside himself than to defeat the darkness all around him.’ It is time for us to stop snuffing out the light and start the march on the darkness.
The prodigal son wasted his inheritance and ended up in a pig sty eating pig food. When we wallow in shame and self pity that is exactly where we end to. Eating pig food oblivious to the fact that the Father is waiting to throw us a huge party, that He is waiting to run towards us with open arms! I don’t know what wakes you up in the middle of the night and causes you guilt and shame, I don’t know how you have failed, but I do know that unless you use your suffering to persevere you will eat pig food for the rest of your life. Your guilt is only as good as the God it drives you toward.