It seems like the end of the school year is just one big streak of painfully long weeks. Every day is crammed with what feels like pointless projects, obligatory award ceremonies, and cookie and juice parties that feel like death for this introvert. Everyone is talking about summer schedules and vacation plans and I’m just standing in the corner asking Jesus to help me not kill my children.
I can’t blame my kids too much for their lack of focus and struggles in obedience as every day is some sugar laden, pajama wearing, free-play-super-awesome-amazing-day at school. I am struggling as well. At this point I’m hardly able to remember my own kids’ names and the scene in the kitchen this morning over the mess of the food coloring, milk, and soap “experiment” may have included a few regrettable PG-13 words.
It wasn’t a surprise that when I got to the end of last week I was in a hole. I’d been doing my best to love my kids but man; we were all just screwing it up.
By Friday afternoon when all of my sinful “try harder” and “do better” ran out I finally collapsed in a heap of guilt. I had sought forgiveness over and over throughout the week from God and others but I was stuck in self-condemnation. I needed to hear that I was forgiven, but Sunday wasn’t here yet!
I remembered my dear friend Lauren walking with me through a friend’s suicide a few years back. If you have ever had someone you love take his or her own life then you know the guilt that it heaps on you. I was struggling to make sense of it. I didn’t quite understand the whole deal of confession and absolution apart from my own personal relationship with Christ. But Lauren helped me to see the importance of confessing my sin out loud and hearing forgiveness from the lips of another. She told me to text her the words, “I need to hear it again” anytime I forgot. I believe I texted almost every day during that time. What an immeasurable gift.
Figuring that this offer still stood, I didn’t hesitate to text her this time. I told her that I was having one of those “I can’t do anything right” kind of weeks and that the guilt over my sin was killing me. I asked her to speak a word of absolution to me because I knew she would understand. I asked her to remind me of my forgiveness. And thanks be to Jesus she delivered.
She simply offered me these words of forgiveness:
For Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners...YOU. You are forgiven...for everything, yesterday, today, and tomorrow. He is the perfect propitiation for your sins.
From our BCP (Book of Common Prayer) for reconciliation of a penitent: Our Lord Jesus Christ, who offered himself to be sacrificed
for us to the Father, forgives your sins by the grace of the
Holy Spirit. Amen.
No sweeter words could I have heard that afternoon, a relief to my struggling soul. There were no tips on how to organize my life better, or how to deal with discipline issues. She hadn’t asked if I had been in the word nor did she prescribe a verse to motivate me to try harder. She had just proclaimed the good news that I am a forgiven sinner. Always.
Could I have reminded myself of these same truths? Of course. And I had. But the proclamation of forgiveness coming from the outside in makes it immensely more believable. Knowing that someone else, someone who knows my sin and weakness, believes these truths for me as well gives me confidence in my forgiveness.
Because I know the reality of summer with four kids and the ugliness of my own heart, I guarantee that I will be asking again for someone to remind me that I am forgiven. And I hope that when I am approached by a friend who confesses her failings to me that I may be a voice of forgiveness to her terrified conscience as well.
This is community.
This is loving your neighbor.
This is life giving freedom.
Because forgiveness always seems too good to be true, and knowing theologically that we are forgiven is just not enough, we will always need to hear it again.