I learned something today. I learned tangibly, practically, how the sins from my past affect me still today. Yes, they are forgiven, washed white, totally erased, but their consequences are not.
Before I gave my life to Christ in December 2012, I was a wretched person. And, really, I was the worst kind of wretched person: I was a good, wretched person. What I mean is: I was a hypocrite. I knew what to say and not to say, I knew how to act and look, and I did most of the things that good people do, but inside I was wretched. The problem with being a "was" is though I am now wiped clean and forgiven, I still have to accept the consequences of my wretchedness.
The problem I face today is I thought I already had. I walked into this season of my life thinking I had a solid handle on the forgiveness I'd received from Christ, the Love that He has for me, the way He sees me, I'd even come to forgive myself of all that I had done.
Today I learned that though I did have a handle on those things in the past season, I'm now in a new season. God has new mercies for me in this season, and I don't yet have the capacity to receive them. My bucket for understanding His mercy was only big enough to fit the mercy He had for me in the last season.
I think of it like this: I have a container in my heart that holds God's love (and grace, and mercy) for me in it. (I imagine there are quite a few other containers, too, but that's for another post.) And in the past season, He grew it to fit as much love as He gave me in that season, and filled it until it had reached it's full capacity for that season. Now that I'm in a new season, He has new love for me--not because His love changed, but because He is changing me to see and know Him and His love better--, but my container is out of space and God is trying to fit more into it. Out of His loving kindness, instead of letting this new kind of love just fall away, He is growing my container--my capacity to receive--so that it can fit this love in it. Why does He do that? I think it's because I can't share this kind of love with others unless I have it within myself. To put it in more Biblical terms: my heart cannot overflow with something that isn't in it to begin with.
The thing about growing is... it's new. It's scary. And growing is painful.
Previously, I had accepted the sins I'd committed and how those actions affected me. I had accepted what I'd done and how it affected God. I had accepted and even received God's forgiveness. I had accepted that what I'd done would one day affect other people, including the man I would marry. But up until now, that man has not had a name, or a face, or a heartbeat, or feelings (at least not ones I could reach out and touch). And I think that I expected that man (whoever and wherever he was--far, far away from here) to love all of me except for my sins. 'Then God...'
This morning as I sat across the table from Michael and told him that his love for me terrifies me, I could see that I'd hurt him. He didn't understand.
"I'm scared," I said, and he looked at me confused.
Then he asked: "What are you scared of?"
Embarrassment overwhelmed me: Why hadn't I thought of that? Usually I'm the one asking him questions to help him explore his thoughts and feelings, but the table had been turned back on me. I had been so overwhelmed by my fears--even to the point of being afraid of my fears!--that I hadn't thought to ask myself what I was so afraid of.
As I talked through my feelings and thoughts and he asked more questions, it came down to this: I am afraid of being loved for who I really am.
(I read this article the other day, and she explains this so well. It truly felt like this women had opened up my brain, looked through it, and written out all the things I didn't know how to say.)
Somehow, some way, God has equipped Michael with His (God's) Own ability to love me wholly, fully. Not that he (Michael) loves my sins, but that he chooses to love all of me in spite of them. And that, my friends, scares the mess out of me. It's easy for me to receive love from those who know only (or primarily) the good and positive things about me; it's even easy for me to receive love from a Sovereign God, who is by definition Love, because He already knew all of those things about me when He came running for me; but in my humanity and humiliation, it's very difficult for me to receive love from a sinful, human man, who has a choice to not love me and chooses to do so anyway, even if he can only do so by God's grace.
Now here I am stuck in between love, fear, and the consequences of my sins. It's a frightening place to be, but I'm grateful to now be able to see my fear for what it is, to know where it came from--all because someone asked me what I was so afraid of, and actually wanted to hear the answer! I know that God will give me the grace to continue receiving and giving love in spite of this fear that is born from sin. I see so clearly now how our sins separate us from love, from God who is Love, and how easy it is to keep focused on fear even when we don't know it's name.
So I ask you, those of you who are afraid: what are you afraid of? why are you afraid of that? what does God say about that? For God has not given you a spirit of fear, but of power and of love and of sound-mind. (2 Timothy 1:7, adjustments are mine)