Let’s start this new decade forgiven. No guilt. No shame. Clean slate.
I was talking to a friend who is a devoted follower of Jesus. I heard him tell his story a while back and was surprised by his transparency. He described an event in his life that caused him years of guilt and shame. But I could see he wasn’t sure which of these two emotions he was experiencing. Sometimes it sounded like guilt, but then as we talked, I thought he was feeling shame. But it was clear, this confusion resulted in anger.
He said, “I struggled with what happened to me for years. It wasn’t a secret. Everyone knew what happened. Everyone knew what I did. Some people comforted me by blaming the other person involved. Others who were supposed to protect me, blamed me. I just couldn’t sort it out. I could not find any peace. The whole thing just made me angry.”
“So what happened?” I asked.
“I came to realize through prayer, I had to forgive the person who did this to me. And I had to forgive myself,” he answered.
“How do you do that? Forgive yourself?” I asked.
He gave me an answer, but he could see it didn’t satisfy me. So he asked, “How do you forgive yourself?”
This question stopped me. I knew this question was important to answer thoughtfully and personally. I felt like the world stopped spinning. Memories flooded my mind. Not good memories. It was those memories, again. Memories of experiences I’ve had that I haven’t shared with anyone. Repressed memories. The ones which would never die and go away.
But I knew from this conversation, I’d found the answer. I must forgive myself. If only I could forgive myself. But how?
I stared off into space for a long time. I realized it was making him uncomfortable, so I said, “I am processing this real-time. You asked a really good question. Give me some time right now to think about this.”
I asked God right then and there, “Help me. Tell me. How do I forgive myself? How do I off-load this guilt and shame?”
The answer I got was quick, clear, and to the point.
God said, “I made you new. That Charlie no longer lives. He is gone.”
I am always quick to quote this Bible verse while in conversations with other men and women—2 Corinthians 5:17. “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has gone, the new has come!” And Revelation 21:5 where Jesus Christ says, “Look, I am making everything new!”
This is forgiveness, self-forgiveness.
The man I was is gone. What happened to him, happened to him. The decisions he made or didn’t make are his. They were lived by him, and they are owned by him. The places he chose to hang out, the people he hung with, that was him. God made me a new man. The new man I am today makes different choices because he is led by God. And his choices do not result in on-going guilt and certainly none of that shame.
This conversation with my friend was a breakthrough. I learned how to forgive myself. Here is how the Apostle Paul put it in Galatians 2:20: “My old self has been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me. So I live in this earthly body by trusting in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.”
Forgiven! Happy New Year. Happy new life.