It was just a little after 5:00 a.m. I fumbled my way to the bathroom, knowing that in just a couple of hours, I would be entering a local jail to encourage the hearts of incarcerated women.
“Lord, I need to know what You want me to say to these ladies,” I prayed. Immediately two words dropped into my spirit. “Forgive yourself.”
“A perfect subject,” I thought. Many of the inmates I’d meet that day probably struggled with guilt in some way. I was excited to bring them a message about forgiveness, to remind them of the importance of being free from guilt and shame so they can move forward with God.
Knowing my thoughts, the Holy Spirit quickly redirected me. “It’s not just for them…it’s for you, too. Forgive yourself, Kristi.”
It’s hard to explain, but somehow, in that brief moment right there in my bathroom, God took me on a tour, showing me some of the ways I subconsciously condemn myself every day.
My eyes focused first on my scale—a big ol’ doctor-style scale with metal weight balances. I suddenly realized how much that scale taunts me daily, reminding me of the weight I’ve gained and the unhealthy foods I often eat.
“Forgive yourself for not weighing what you used to,” the Holy Spirit whispered.
Next, my eyes shifted to a framed picture of my son, Ty. For months, this adorable photo has remained wedged between the bathroom scale and the wall. Another whisper came, “Forgive yourself for not hanging that picture and for not having a perfectly put together house.”
We’ve lived in our home for seven months now, and it still isn’t in order. Everywhere I look, I am reminded of the things I haven’t yet done. It makes me feel unsettled, and frankly, it makes me feel like a failure.
God continued to speak to me through that picture, this time through its subject, my toothless, then-five-year-old son, Ty. “Forgive yourself for all the mistakes you have made as a mother.” So many times I’ve wished I could go back and do things a little bit differently as a mom.
Lastly, my eyes shifted to another item on the floor, a bronze plaque that says, “Be still and know.” It’s a reminder from Psalm 46:10 to be emotionally and mentally still—to remember that God is in control.
“Forgive yourself for all the times you’ve failed to be still, and trust Me. Forgive yourself for not already being in the Word this morning and for not having a message all prepared.”
Only God knew the pressure of self-judgment that had been building within me that morning. And all before I’d even had a chance to brush my teeth!
Oh, how I long to be an excellent wife, mom, ministry leader, housekeeper, Christian, friend, and daughter. I long to be healthy and to live a life of impact. Every day I strive for perfection, yet I fail in so many ways.
I am so thankful that God loves me enough to remind me that it’s okay not to be perfect. “I forgive myself, Lord, for all these things.” I said.
The heavy weight of guilt lifted, and peace settled in its place. I was free and better positioned to go forth and love others.
You may have heard Jesus’ command to love others as we love ourselves (Mark 12:31). It’s hard to love ourselves when we are overwhelmed with guilt. Guilt causes us to focus on ourselves and our shortcomings instead of on our Savior and His love. Kind of makes guilt an idol, doesn’t it?
Did you know that God is not the source of guilt and condemnation? Guilt and condemnation are tricks of our enemy.
Satan wants us to wallow in feelings of unworthiness and failure, to live in a constant state of judging and comparing so we feel less than. He doesn’t want us to know how special we are to God; he definitely doesn’t want us to realize that God can use us despite our imperfections. Satan wants us to feel like we just don’t measure up. But God says differently.
Even in our sinful, imperfect state, we are worth everything to God—even the life of His precious Son (Romans 8:32). While we were yet sinners, Jesus died for us (Romans 5:8).
What condemns you on a daily basis? What taunts you from the moment you wake up? Do you need to be free from the weight of guilt? What do you need to forgive yourself for? Not being perfect? Not having as nice a car or home as your friend? Maybe you’ve still not finished that Bible study you started months ago. Maybe you’ve hurt a friend or let someone down. Do you feel guilty that you weren’t chosen for something, maybe because you aren’t as talented as someone else or don’t have a degree? Are you blaming yourself for the loss of your job?
Maybe you’ve failed—you haven’t achieved your goals or your marriage is failing or your child has abandoned God. Maybe you’re in an abusive relationship and you can’t let yourself leave. Maybe you’re failing physically—gaining weight, struggling with addiction, or maybe you’re just not able to do what you used to do.
We could make lists all day of the ways we deny the gift of freedom God offers us.
Listen—whatever it is that stands between you and that gift, you should know it is not from God. He has already forgiven you. Forgive yourself. Lose the guilt and find God’s peace, so that you can love yourself and, ultimately, love others as God intends.
Does this story strike a chord for you? Read the entire May 2018 issue by clicking here.
Photo by LoboStudio Hamburg