Have you ever felt like it was too late for you? That you were beyond redemption? I have. At one time, I felt like I had made so many mistakes and misjudgments that I was a goner.
There are so many things that lead us to these kinds of thoughts. Addictions, awful relationships, trusting people who have betrayed us or unrighteous desires to name a few. The thing we have to remember is that it is never too late.
I have befriended folks who have slipped away from church attendance and the story is almost always one of two different scenarios: They don't feel worthy to enter God's house and associate with his disciples or someone has wronged them and they have become bitter.
1. It's our fault
Maybe we have cheated on our taxes, spread gossip, yelled at our children or not followed what we know to be right. We are all imperfect beings striving and usually falling short of the ideal example set by Jesus Christ. We try, we mess up. We try again, and we mess up again. It all becomes futile. We fall down, over and over again until we feel too inadequate to try standing anymore. 2.It's their fault.With this second reason, the cut is sometimes deeper. We feel that someone has betrayed us. We become offended. We won't have anything to do, not only with them, but with everyone associated with them. And we fall away. I've seen this time and time again. Someone said something mean and a faction formed against us. Gossip. Rumors. Untruths. We allow them to drive us away.
In both cases, we feel as though there is no way we could ever be a part of our church congregation again. Before we realize it, we are so far off the path we can no longer see our goal. We are headed for disaster.
Here's what we have to wrap our heart and our head around. We're all in this together. So here's where we start.
1. Appearances can be deceiving
I love this saying. If all our sins smelled like cigarette smoke, none of us would be able to breathe in our meetings. In other words, we are all sinners to some degree. Everyone you see is battling something.
We all struggle — even that family over there where everyone looks so polished and their kids' shoes are all shiny and tied and her dress is ironed and he has no stains on his tie. Yes, them. Here's what you don't know about this perfect picture of a family. He struggles with computer sites he shouldn't be looking at. She knows it and has begun to spend time on the phone with an old friend. Their children feel the tension and cry a lot at night.
We all battle demons. This doesn't mean that we shouldn't look to others as role models. It just means we shouldn't put them on a pedestal, thinking we can never be as good as they are and give up. The secret is to be honest, support one another, and fight the good fight, knowing full well there will be good days and bad days. But, we have to commit to putting on the armor every morning and doing the best we can, minute by minute.
Oscar Wilde said it best: “The only difference between the saint and the sinner is that every saint has a past, and every sinner has a future.” We have a future.
2. Forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us
People are not perfect. We've established that. They will gossip. They will point fingers and spread falsehoods. But our God is perfect and so is our savior, Jesus Christ. When we enter their house, we need to forgive others and not dwell on the harm they would do us, but frankly forgive them. Smile with the knowledge that we are divine children of God, battling the same battles others are.
We have our imperfections; others have theirs. Together, we do the best we can every day. We cannot let the thoughtlessness of others keep us from our divine missions of being the best we can, again, minute by minute. Our example of fortitude and determination will become a shining beacon to them and the harm that they have done will be forgotten.
Lest you think otherwise, this article serves as a reminder to me as well as encouragement for you. I have felt painted into a corner by my sins and that they were too vast and innumerable to ever allow me to worship again. I have also been the object of vicious rumor and speculation. In both cases, it was up to me to repent — in the first case, to seek forgiveness for my own shortcomings and in the second case, because I allowed the painful words of others to control my worthiness.
I have been on my knees too many times to count, asking for forgiveness and vowing to never again fall victim to my own folly or to the misguided rudeness of others. All we can do is continue to soldier on, forgiving ourselves and forgiving others. We have the perfect example and I pray for all of us every day that we can become more like him.