You Are Not Your Mistakes
Who is a God like you, who pardons sin and forgives the transgression of the remnant of his inheritance? You do not stay angry forever but delight to show mercy. You will again have compassion on us; you will tread our sins underfoot and hurl all our iniquities into the depths of the sea.
—Micah 7:18-19 (Read Micah 7)
God delights in showing mercy. Hmmm, can’t relate.
The Lord has had me very much in a season of preparation over the last year. It’s been an all-in-one painful, confusing, scary and sanctifying process. I’ve been shedding old, poor habits, thought patterns and ways of relating to people and trading them for holier and more edifying ones. As I have been faithful to God by surrendering every moment—big or small—to Him, He’s taken me beyond what I ever could have imagined for myself. But sometimes, things just get too good and ya gotta mess up a little, am I right?
Three nights before I strayed from the narrow path the Lord had set before me, I asked God to keep me close to Him—to not let me get lazy and fall off course now that I had made so many breakthroughs. But alas, I woke up Friday morning ashamed of what I had done that week. Drunkenness, toxic behavior, complacency, lying—it all made me cringe. I thought about how God had been preparing me for greater things than were before, and thought to myself, “I am a low-quality person.” I am supposed to be a leader in ministry, but I am just a hypocrite. I asked God, “What now?” expecting him to take Himself and His blessings away from me.
The shame became overwhelming, and I had to phone a friend. I told him what I had done that week and how I was feeling. He empathized, then reminded me that this wasn’t the first time I would miss the mark and it certainly wasn’t going to be the last. “So what do I do? How do I stop feeling like low-quality person?” I asked him. His response was so simple: “You’re going to stop talking like that first of all. I mean, a ‘low-quality person’? C’mon.”
And through that response I heard the Lord remind me that I am not my mistakes.
Then I remembered Peter. Jesus found Peter where Peter be most of the time—fishing. Jesus called Peter out of the maritime industry to be His disciple and build His church. Peter was a passionate follower (sometimes to a fault). Even so, the night Jesus was arrested, Peter denied knowing Jesus and cussed out a little girl next to a coal-burning fire. Realizing what he had done, he went away weeping. I wasn’t there, but I’m sure it was quite the scene. I get second-hand embarrassment just recounting the incident. But, just a couple days after His resurrection, Jesus reappeared to Peter, nonetheless at the Sea of Galilee where Peter was…fishing.
Peter was out on the water and “threw himself into the sea” (John 21:7) to meet Jesus at the shore. There is where Jesus had a coal fire burning—the same kind burning by Peter when he denied Jesus in the court. Just as Peter had denied Jesus three times in the court, Jesus asked Peter three times, “Do you love me?” Each time, Peter says yes, and the Lord tells him, “Then feed my sheep.” In other words, then continue the work I have put before you. Walk in my will. Serve me, Peter, because you love me. And Peter went on to do do the work the Lord had commissioned him—start the early Christian church, perform many miracles and write two books of the Bible.
When we go astray, the Lord will roll up on us in familiar places. He doesn’t come to spite us, but to show us mercy again. As we just celebrated this past Easter, God loves us—so much so that he died and rose again for us, destroying sin and reconciling us to Himself. That is the simple message of the Gospel and of who God is. He is a compassionate God who delights in showing mercy because He loves us.
The last thing my friend asked me on the phone was what my next step would be. I told him I would pray for the opportunity to get it right. I wouldn’t wallow in shame or revert to sin, but I would step back on the path the Lord has set before me. In God’s infinite mercy, you can do the same.
Pray this prayer when you feel shame threatening to drown out God’s voice:
Father in Heaven, I praise you for adopting me and giving my life purpose. Thank you that you have created me to live in loving relationship with you and others. Please forgive me for not believing your love for me and running to isolation and sin rather than calling on you for help. Thank you Jesus for dying for these sins, so that I may be forgiven, freed, and given a path to live for you. Who is like you, God, who delights in showing mercy and will have compassion on me again? Praise you father for your love and forgiveness. I place my trust in you and commit myself to your ways and your will. Amen.
—Sara Kaempf serves as a part of Cornerstone Leadership.
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