How many times have I thought this, whispered it or screamed the words at myself? Too many to count.
I imagine you’ve done the same. Quick to believe the worst, we punish ourselves, by rehearsing our sins, bad choices or the lies we’ve believed over and over. Don’t we?
And so we reach the final focus in our series on forgiveness—learning to forgive ourselves. I’d experienced God’ forgiveness, and chose to believe Psalm 103:12 that says he forgives as far as the east is from the west (which is infinitely far if you keep going around the circle).I had finally forgiven the people I loved who had hurt me, releasing them into God’s hands.
But I couldn’t forgive myself.
After all, it was me who chose the life I ended up living. My poor judgment caused the pain I suffered. God had tried to gain my trust and attention and pointed out the truth about myself and my situation. But I hadn’t been willing to deal with the truth. It was too hard, too scary, too painful.
I caused my years of heartache.
As my children shared their hearts about all that had happened, I hated myself and my self-imposed blindness. They had come to me with their hurts from a dysfunctional family life, but I did nothing to intervene. I couldn’t forgive myself for the way they had suffered as a result of my leaving them unprotected over the years.
I was so intent on holding onto a dream of the marriage I wanted, that I sacrificed my children. I saw myself as the ancient worshipers of Molech, god of the Ammonites, who threw their children into flames as living sacrifices which God said, in Leviticus 20:1-5 and Jeremiah 32:35, was detestable (refer also to Leviticus 18:2, Deut. 12:31 and I Kings 11:5).
How could I do something so awful to the ones I love the most?
But in spite of my choices, God had been putting the pieces of my children back together. Still, I felt as if the damage was irreparable; that I could never make it up to them. How could crying and telling them how sorry I was ever be enough? How could my right choices and protection of them now make up for all the years I left them uncovered and vulnerable? My children were willing to work through forgiving me, but I was not willing to forgive myself. Then a friend showed me a verse in Job that spoke to my heart.
I felt my spiritual eyes open.
Jesus showed me the huge wall I had built around myself with my lack of forgiveness. It was keeping me trapped in places where He wanted me to be free. I had been judging myself and keeping myself weighed down with the need for justice against me.
He is wooing you from the jaws of distress to a spacious place free from restriction, to the comfort of your table laden with choice food. But now you are laden with the judgment due the wicked; judgment and justice have taken hold of you.
Jesus had already forgiven me and begun to restore my relationship with Him and my children. It was me not forgiving myself that kept me trapped. I had to let go of wanting to punish myself for not changing my life situation sooner.
I confessed my lack of forgiveness for myself.
God showed me His love for me in special ways unique to me, like seeing dolphins jumping in the ocean by my house. He reminded me of the good plans he had for me–even though I may not see them all yet. Through the Bible and other relationships, he taught me how to better love and help my children in their lives. My new freedom also brought the ability to let go of them. As I released myself from the guilt and shame I had been living under, I was able to let God work in His own way in each of their lives. That did more for them than me beating myself up on their behalf.
Each one holds an important key to the door of freedom.
Below is a link to a song that greatly aided me in the process of learning to forgive myself.
Have you forgiven yourself?