Better Instead

“Ouch!” I let out a not-so-subtle scream from the kitchen. A mildly concerned voice responded from the next room, “Are you okay? What happened?” “I cut my finger.” “Is it bleeding?” I assessed the injury and responded honestly, “Yes, if I squish it.” A not-so-amused voice responded, “Well don’t squish it.” Silence. I squished it.

And this sums up my life. I make mistakes. I become anxious. I worry a lot. As if that is not bad enough, then I squish it. To make it worse, I usually squish it after I talk to God about it. “God, I’ve really messed up this time.” “Is it bad?” “Yes, if I squish it.” Silence. I squish it.

It must be in my nature to make bad situations worse even though I’d love to make things better instead. The amazing thing, though, is what happens even after I make it worse. Someone comes to the kitchen, washes my cut finger, reassures me, and instructs me how to put the knives in the dishwasher with the sharp edge down. That is mercy. Mercy is when God looks upon us and knows our hearts. God sees our messes and self-induced injuries and cares for us, lovingly directs us away from the source of our pain and disobedience and shows us a better way — His way.

Two days later, my cut finger still hurts a little, but I have not repeated the offense. As it turns out, we are not exempt from the consequences of our sins. But with a little corrective discipline and loving guidance, we have what we need to avoid the situations and traps that have ensnared us in the past. Will I get careless and put the knives in wrong again? Yes, probably so. Will I cut myself and squish it, I really want to say no but….

God’s grace is not an excuse to make poor decisions. Cut fingers still hurt. Squished cuts still bleed. God doesn’t want this kind of life for us. He wants us to have life and have it more abundantly (John 10:10)! But when we do get careless, God will take care of us. His grace is sufficient, and nothing can separate us from His love (Romans 8:38-39). It is because of this love that we endeavor not to mess up or to make our messes worse. His love motivates us to do good — to honor Him. Our efforts, though, are not enough to reconcile us to God or to clean up our messes. Only through the blood of Christ are we restored to right standing before God (Ephesians 1:7-10).

Do I still feel silly for cutting my finger? Yeah, a little bit. Does my embarrassment change anything? No. In the same way, carrying guilt for something that God has already forgiven is without purpose and hinders our service to God and to others. Accept God’s forgiveness. Instead of beating yourself up or squishing injuries, rest securely in God’s protection and grace. He’s more than a band-aid that covers the cut. He is the healer- the great physician (Luke 5:31). The cut isn’t covered, it’s gone! There is therefore no condemnation (Romans 8:1)!

Be kind to yourself. God has offered forgiveness. Receive it. The condemnation we continue to carry after Christ has already justified us is just another way of squishing a situation and making it worse. Allow God to be God. Accept His goodness and His grace. Let go of the shame and the guilt and the anger you’ve been carrying for so long. Isn’t it heavy? Aren’t you tired? I know that I am exhausted.

I will pray for you and I ask with all sincerity that you continue to pray for me. I accept forgiveness and I relinquish guilt. Today, I am moving forward with my life. Please, because you are loved and life is big, move forward too. Today, let’s make things better instead.

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