I don’t know about you, but I’ve done terrible things I thought I’d never do.
Something precious breaks when you publicly confess a sin. Most of us have felt it. There’s a moment when you realize that everyone, or even just one very important someone, is suddenly looking at you like you’re someone they don’t recognize. You have done something they thought you’d never do – you are, in their perception, permanently not the you that was before the undoable evil, the unexpected betrayal, the irrevocable tragedy. A necessary consequence, the breaking, but a painful one. In their eyes, you are no longer the same. You’ll never be the same.
But you feel the same.
Every bit of who you were the day before you committed your regrettable sin is still humming inside of you. Every dream, every hope or desire, every positive trait or flaw or scar or talent you’ve ever had is unaltered underneath your newly unrecognizable facade. It’s like going into hiding – suddenly, if your oops is big enough, your whole identity is reduced to a single word: Liar. Thief. Adulterer. Cheater. Murderer. Divorcee. Gossip. Failure. You look around you and see your new title reflecting off the glassy surfaces of eyes that trusted you yesterday, that knew yesterday that you love bubble tea and you sometimes wake up at 2:30 am for no reason, but now see only how badly you’ve hurt them, how disappointing you are. You feel unforgivable.
But, also, you feel- well, you feel the same.
You feel guilty, and broken, and embarrassed, and sorry, and defensive, and horrible, but you feel the same. You feel like you. And you mourn, because in that moment it feels like this failure will become the defining piece of your resume. It feels like all the things you were, you are, will never matter again. It feels like you’ve disappeared. It feels like you’ve broken everyone who trusted you and that no one will ever see through that brokenness and notice that you still believe what you believed yesterday, that you still think there’s a right and a wrong, that you still desperately want to be better than you are.
Eventually, folks come around. Eventually, with enough repentance and grace, trust is relearned. Some bridges are ashes, but some relationships will be restored. Like a tornado, like a hurricane, like a war, sin ravages the landscape of your life, but by grace you rebuild. Consequences are brutal, but you take them, because you need them to grow.
And sometimes, someone extraordinary stands with you in the rubble. They hold your hand and they whisper in your ear, “I know you’re still in there. I am so mad at you today, but I know who you are. I see you. I see you and I know that you are the same. That you are loved. That you are loved as much today as you were yesterday when nobody knew the depth of your sin. You are loved just the same. You aren’t worthy, but you were never worthy. You are the same. You are loved just the same.”
Sometimes that person is human. Sometimes it’s just you and God and the mess you’ve made. Either way, you’re never alone.
It’s a tricky thing to ask of the hurting, to forgive. An impossible thing, really, and one that requires a supernatural amount of strength. It’s an impossible calling to recognize a child of God in our most formidable enemies. Sometimes the layers of evil are so dense, so impenetrable, so ugly that it’s difficult to justify any allowance of grace. I know not everyone is repentant. I know sin is stubborn and tricky and terrible and raw. But my heart is pulled now as it wasn’t before. My heart is suspicious that perhaps we are called to practice radical grace. Radical redemption. Radical love. Love so radical it heals some and offends others. I wish I knew how.
It has been years since I’ve stood knee deep in ruin. There are the usual daily smatterings of small failures, but it has been years since I’ve ripped the roofs off of everything I’ve built. I remember always the gift of a hand in mine, in fields of silence and destruction and disappointment, and the brave, holy, unconditional, awesome still small voices:
You are still you. I see you. You are the loved just the same.
To those of you in the rubble today, those who have ruined everything, those who feel unredeemable:
Somewhere in there, you are still you. He sees you. You are loved just the same.