What tight grip can guilt and shame hold on so many!
Some may walk around for years of wondering when they will be set free. The encounter I experienced last summer is one I will never, ever forget. It has forever changed my understanding of God's grace and how He sees you and me. Oh, how different it is than how we oftentimes see ourselves. It has changed my understanding of who He is, and of the power He holds in His hands. It has taught me about His great mercy as a loving Father. It has taught me about His understanding of forgiveness - a forgiveness which is vastly different than the standards we sometimes hold over ourselves and others.
This is for the one who has been holding onto the past, who has had something stolen from them. For the one who has made a mistake that has hung over them. For the one who needs forgiveness, and for the one who needs to forgive.
Today, dear friend, may you find freedom in Jesus' name.
One summer evening last year, I was passing through downtown Chicago. I remember that it was a warm, beautiful evening - one of those sunsets that makes you want to stop in your tracks and soak it in.
At one point, I had passed by a woman and for some reason we met eyes. I said "God Bless" to her and continued walking. Later that evening, when I got back to my car in a different part of the city, I was ready to head home. To my surprise, there stood the same woman I saw from earlier. When we saw each other the second time we couldn't help but realize how strange it was that we would run into each other again.
Sweet-sounding, friendly, and talkative she was. As one who does not believe in coincidence, I couldn't help but ask her if there was anything in her life I could be praying for. It was at that moment I realized we had run into each other for a much greater reason.
"If only you knew," She said.
I watched her smile quickly fade as her head fell with shame. She no longer looked me in the eyes. You never know what someone is going through when you meet them. Oftentimes, we stay skin deep when there is great hurt on the inside.
I started to listen to her story, and yes, she was a complete stranger. But for some reason, this woman felt comfortable enough to open up to me and share what she had just gone through. Her eyes started to flood with tears as she was gripped by what she had just done.
The first time I saw her in the city miles away from where we stood, she had just stepped foot out of an abortion clinic.
Everything inside of me yelled, "Why am I the first person this woman would see when she walked out of this place?"
God very strategically placed me on her path at that very moment in time to meet her in her darkest hour. It was a moment she knew she would regret for the rest of her life. She couldn't even finish telling me before she was sobbing, her head hanging. She had lost all control and wished she could only go back. She tried to tell me why she did it, but she was still gripped. She could hardly breathe.
All I could do was pray.
She offered me her hand, her hospital wristband still secured tightly. She did not feel worthy of coming to the Lord. She wanted to hide from Him. In His presence was the very last place she wanted to be. She was so ashamed. My eyes filled with tears for her.
That day, a part of her died.
What I saw happen next was profound in my faith. Yes, she was guilty. Yes, she was condemned. What she had just done was in complete opposition of the Giver and Creator of everything she knew, a total slap in the face to the deepest degree. But by the very grace of God and who He is, and by His unfailing character that never shifts like changing shadows, when she was waiting for great condemnation, He offered her outstretched arms.
She had reached her end. She made a complete mess of her life. And yet God said, "I'll replace it."
He offered her hope. He offered her forgiveness. He offered her a love that doesn't compare to this world. She couldn't make any sense of it. What God would have arms open wide in her darkest hour of hopelessness?
That is the gospel.
We have all spit in His face. We have all fallen short of the glory of God. We have all had our darkest hour and we all deserve condemnation. We underestimate His forgiveness and think, "What I have done is too great. I have fallen too far."
It was not because of what this woman had done; but it was because of what God did for her that she was found forgiven.
In our very darkest moment, Christ died for us. What could we possibly offer the Creator of the world? We are but dust. His love for us cannot be earned. And His love for us can never be separated.
God did not wait for this woman to come crawling back to Him, saying, "I told you so." He did not expect for her to guilt herself and make up for her mistakes.
She was fully forgiven.
Past, present, and future was she forgiven. She had surrendered her life to the Lord Jesus Christ that night. She left in tears of joy and her life was forever changed. Her darkest hour became a new start, a brand new life in Christ. The old was dead and gone.
I will never forget that woman for the rest of my life. I will never forget what I watched God do through her circumstance. This really made me think about my understanding of forgiveness. If God so freely forgives when we turn to Him and repent, why does it take me so long sometimes to forgive myself and others?
May God change our hearts to look more like His. <3