If they knew what you knew that God knew about you, how would that affect how you lived your life?
One of the hardest things to do as a Christian is moving on from our past. We all know who we were. We also know who we are, or at least are trying to be. There is no escaping the memories of our history. We are all inescapably trapped by our own experiences.
This reality has often times caused me to struggle. In particular, I have struggled with bearing witness to the grace of God and the Gospel of Jesus because of fear. Fear of my own ignorance; of my own failures; even of my own fears. The level of emotional and spiritual paralysis can be suffocating at times. I recognize that I have been saved by Jesus. I believe the Good News and have confessed my faith in God. I have started doing all the right things, and still I have felt like there is something missing.
The truth is there is something missing. However, it is not what many of us think. Over the years, I have found that my biggest problem is not the right things I’m doing, but a shame over all the things I know I have done wrong. I think this is because of an essential misunderstanding of grace.
God’s grace does not remove the scars caused by our sin. What grace does is heal the wound. An open wound, one that will not heal, will eventually get infected. We understanding this when we think of our bodies but, what about our spiritual being. When we suffer a spiritual injury how are these wounds healed? What can we do to close a wound we cannot see?
The first thing we have to recognize is that spiritual injuries are exactly that, spiritual. That means looking for natural means of healing them will never work. As a matter of fact, doing this may actually deepen the injury and extend the time needed for healing. Pastor Luis Scott has defined a spiritual injury as a contradiction between what we believe and what we know to be true. An example of this is when a child is being abused by a parent. The child believes that the parent should be caring for and protecting them but, the supposed protector is actually a perpetrator. The injury caused by this contradiction remains present and open far longer than any of the physical wounds inflicted as long as the contradiction remains unresolved. Long after the latter has healed, the former may continue growing and festering.
While it is true that many people suffer spiritual injuries at the hands of others, it is also true that we can become the cause of our own injuries. When w attempt to reconcile a contradiction in our hearts and minds, a contradiction that “we know” is not true, we inadvertently keep amplifying the spiritual damage. What makes this entire process worse is that many of us dying under the weight of more contradictions than we can identify on our own. We need help in sorting it all out. We really cannot do it on our own. But our shame (which is the inverted expression of pride) gets in the way.
My shame over past sin is real. There is no taking any of it back. All of us who acknowledge that we are sinners understand this. The problem is that we cannot continue to believe that we are both horrible sinners and redeemed saints. Before I get accused of being a heretic, understand what I am saying. I am a horrible sinner. That does not change. What does change is that if I am redeemed by the blood of Christ, as the Gospel declares, then I have to see the reality my sinfulness in light of the truth of my salvation.
In other words, the TRUTH of God’s grace, the TRUTH that I have been saved, the TRUTH that I am now being conformed into the image of Christ, these TRUTHs overshadows the lie that I am too far gone for God to save. That I cannot not be saved or that I cannot be changed. These ideas are contrary to what God has proclaimed in his word.
There are too many Christians who have inflicted upon themselves very serious spiritual injuries and they may not even know it. And the root cause of these injuries is that they have believed lies. When we believe lies about God, his grace, and the Gospel we will suffer. And we suffer because we are descending into bondage. But, when we continue to hold on to notions of who we used to be without God when God has changed those circumstances we continue to injure ourselves.
The first step toward healing is to stop doing what is causing the wound to remain open and exposed. We have to discover the lie we have believed that has led to a contradiction in our lives. This is not always easy. It can take some time to find and then accept that we believed a lie. However, in the end, it is vital to our getting spiritually healthy.