Have you messed up? Have you done something—big or little, a lifelong habit or a one-time occurrence—of which you are ashamed? We all do typically, at some point in our life, but how you handle it has long term implications for both your mental health and your relationship with God.
“If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” (I John 1:8-9 NKJV)
We are human. If we “…love the LORD…[our] God with all…[our] heart, all…[our] soul, and all…[our] mind” (Matthew 22:37 NLT), we will act foolishly or downright sinfully less, but we may still misrepresent God through our own responses at some point. How we handle the aftermath is significant.
So what happens when you mess up? When in hindsight, you see that you were genuinely not everything you should have been?
We had a funeral in my husband’s family yesterday. His sister—a year younger than him and me—passed away after about a month of struggling on a ventilator because of a COVID-19 infection (to which she was particularly vulnerable because of chemotherapy). She left behind a husband and seventeen-year-old-daughter, as well as a mother and a sister and brothers and their spouses and children. This would have been a difficult time regardless, but people were stressed and bad feelings had sprung up between her husband and my husband’s family.
There was no brunch after the funeral, so some of my husband’s family congregated at Grandma’s house and split the catering bill. The part that made me feel bad, however, was that I feel we mishandled this—at least from a Christ-honoring perspective.
Regardless of what was said, there were multiple grieving people—not the least of which is her husband of seventeen plus years. This is the man she chose; this is the man who is her daughter’s biological father; this is the man who lived with her and her daughter since their marriage—who is now tasked with supporting and maintaining their remaining two-person nuclear family. I cannot imagine how difficult that will be!
I understand that she probably became infected indirectly through his work—because he didn’t take a vacation and continued onward throughout the time of her chemotherapy treatments. In hindsight—if at all possible—wisdom might have dictated differently. Yet it was not intentional; at worst, it was a willful refusal to face possible dire consequences, which unfortunately occurred.
My point is merely that God wants us to forgive each other as we have ourselves been forgiven by Him through Christ. And to love; and to accept—again, as we are loved and accepted through Christ by God.
Yet yesterday, several things happened. The first is that as an extended family, I feel, we excluded two of the most affected and grieving individuals after the burial. Instead of gathering around them and grieving with them, we left them. I did not hear the words previously exchanged—they were not said to me; I do not understand how potentially offensive they were. What I do understand is what God tells us:
“Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen. And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, with whom you were sealed for the day of redemption. Get rid of all bitterness, rage and anger, brawling and slander, along with every form of malice. Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you.” (Ephesians 4:29-32 NIV)
What I do understand is that He commands us to “forgive each other, as as in Christ God forgave you.” It isn’t complicated, just difficult at times.
My second regret from yesterday was my own witness at Grandma’s house. Before the funeral, I asked God to speak truth to those gathered through the Catholic priest who was invited to conduct the service—I am fully convinced God can work through anyone He chooses. And He did! In almost everything he said, he pointed us, his audience, to Christ Jesus! I was so happy sitting there, that we were being led closer to God. Yet when he was brought up afterward in somewhat of a negative light, I failed to speak up…
I should have spoken up and said that he had spoken truth. But I didn’t. Instead I sat there closed-mouthed as bad feelings were vented, about the priest and everything else, and spoke nothing of substance…
So what should I now do? How can I make amends? Is there a way to make amends? Perhaps acknowledging this publicly on this site is my feeble effort to do so; ultimately, God may give me another opportunity to better represent Him. I know that I will make an effort to reach out to my sister-in-law’s daughter and husband, in whatever small way I can. For now, I have confessed that I sinned against God; that I fell short of being the person He wanted me to be yesterday. And I know He is faithful and just to forgive me my sins and to cleanse me of all unrighteousness.
So—have you messed up? Have you done something you know was wrong; something you are now ashamed of? Don’t sweep it under your feet and try to live as if it didn’t happen—you may think it worked, that it’s forgotten, but unless you confessed it to God, it isn’t. Present it to Jesus and admit you were wrong. Then continue onward, knowing that God already knew you were wrong, and has forgiven and accepted you in Jesus!
Dear Lord God,
Thank You that You forgive; thank You that even though I fail, You never do! Help me represent you better. Amen.