A path to self-forgiveness
In my recovery program, Celebrate Recovery, we do acronyms. A lot. And since I like to think of myself as an uber-creative, I love coming up with acronyms. One of my favorites describes how I try to show love to others. FUMES stands for Forgiveness, Understanding, Mercy, Encouragement, and So many things that begin with S: support, serenity, spiritual strength, my story, my smile, being still and knowing, surety, scripture, simplicity, and – from this morning’s time in the Word – a new understanding of how to find self-forgiveness.
I don’t think that many of us struggle with this, I know. You tell me in small group and when you share your testimony. It’s one of the most difficult parts of healing and transformation, for sure. And today’s verses struck me strongly.
(I have to plug author Adam Houge – he’s a machine! I’ve read several of his books, and am currently working through the 30-day devotional Refreshed In Christ, which pointed me to these verses.)
1 John 3 in the Easy-to-Read Version (ERV)
:14 …We love each other as brothers and sisters.
:16 This is how we know what real love is: Jesus gave His life for us. So we should give our lives for each other as brothers and sisters.
:18 …We must show our love by the things we do.
This is straightforward. We’re called to show love for others – brotherly/sisterly love. We do this with our thoughts, words, and actions. There’s a cliche, “The best apology is changed behavior.” But there’s also a call to love and forgive ourselves. I dare say there’s only one way to do this:
:19-:21 And when our hearts make us feel guilty, we can still have peace before God, because God is greater than our hearts. He knows everything.
My dear friends, if we don’t feel that we are doing wrong, we can be without fear when we come to God.
In short, we know if our own repentance is sincere. We may still struggle, but we’re ‘working the steps.’ We’re really trying to do the next right thing. We’re forgiving others, being understanding, having merciful words (if not thoughts – yet), speaking encouragement. Serving. Sharing. Supporting. And we can be very sure that God knows our true hearts.
If we truly believe, we can and will think, speak, and act like it. Truly changed behavior, not just a show. (And all that takes is doing it.) We know what we were like in the past; we can’t and shouldn’t forget. But we know – we can see – that we have really been changed. (And if we journal, we can literally read and review the documented progress.)
God gives us the power to change – stuffs us full of it, even if our circumstances mean this is only in our attitude, actions, and words. (IOW, if we don’t have things to give/share.) Everyone has encouraging words, a smile, at least a little time to give. And even the smallest bit of these can miraculously show God to someone who needs it.
Knowing my own sincere repentance, powered by God’s gift of grace and backed up by verses like these, is the key in the ignition of my self-forgiveness. But there’s more good stuff to fuel my progress!
:22-:23 And God gives us what we ask for. We receive it because we obey God’s commands and do what pleases Him. This is what God commands: That we believe in His son, Jesus Christ, and that we love each other as He commanded.
Do I believe in Jesus Christ? Easily! (Well, it turns out to be the easiest part of this journey. Daily.) God’s grace has then become more and more evident in my life – even if only in the serenity I feel. (Like during those long days in the hospital.) But my circumstances are changing, too. That re-affirms and re-assures me that I am, at last, on His right path, and makes me determined to – finally – stick to something. His something for me.
Instead of the vicious cycle of addiction and phases, I find myself in a blessed cycle of grace. And I realize I’m feeling better about myself each day.