When I was in therapy, trying to understand what was behind some of the horribly bad choices I had made, I spent a lot of time with Jim the Counselor.
One of the things I liked about Jim is that I could not get by with BS where he was concerned. He called me out, as I tried to weave around things I didn't want to say, and the result - to my surprise - was that I found myself broken and vulnerable before him. I learned to whisper the truth, in places where I'd never had the nerve to admit it.
I had a lot of junk - much more than I ever imagined, being the Type A, Get-It-Done kinda girl I was. Jim helped me pull my hands away from the cracks and begin the slow, difficult process of learning how to live honestly.
It was painful.
But it was worth it.
I remember this thing he said; when it first hit my ears, it stung, because in that moment, I was living out the truth of the statement. It wasn't news to me, this truth; but the reality of it had become clear in my daily life, my coming and going, my waking and sleeping.
You know how when you're in the middle of something, that's where you seem to stay? You're in the midst of something painful or confusing and it's like a bad train wreck, you just keep going back to it. You wake up in the morning and for a moment, there's peace, and then your chest tenses and your breath catches in your throat and you remember. And then throughout the moments of the day, there's that sepia tint to everything, good, bad or neutral. It's all tainted, because you realize, "Oh, crap. There's that."
Jim said to me, "Your sin will always find you out."
That's heavy duty, authoritative stuff. It's in the Bible, in Numbers. It carries a kind of weight that implies consequence, punishment, revelation, shame.
We don't even use the word "sin" much any more, perhaps for the risk of offending someone or appearing judgmental. But there are many things that we do as humans that qualify as "sin", making us "sinners".
I know. I am one. When I was seeing Jim regularly, I was living out the consequence of some choices that were, by anybody's definition, sin. It was not fun. I learned the meaning of shame and sorrow in a way I never thought I'd need to know.
But that's where I learned grace. Grace saved my life. I received it; not just in the spiritual sense of "the grace of God", but in the truest sense of being exposed and raw before people who were willing to offer grace to me.
Not everybody, of course. Grace is never required. But when it is given, it brings healing. I have come to believe that the richest, deepest experience of community and relationship is when we give - and receive - grace. It changes us.
Today, I have thought a lot about sin, and repentance, and mercy and forgiveness. I've thought about the remarkable capacity we have as humans to believe in one another, to hope for the best, to look away from the worst. I've thought a lot about how hard it is to live in the grey area of mercy and forgiveness when the effects of our sin often drag behind us like tin cans tied to a wedding car. It's noisy and distracting and makes an awful racket.
I've thought a lot about how stuff we think is long gone, over and done, buried and forgotten, can rise up with a vengeance and paralyze us.
I've thought about this: that grace will seep in the dark places and fill the cracks of the most sinful soul. Grace longs to bring life, and people who love God often yearn to offer grace.
But it does not go where it is not invited. It can be offered lavishly, generously, freely; mixed with a desire to forgive and restore, it often comes at great cost. But it must be accepted, welcomed in and given free reign to fill and heal and make all things new. What is withheld, left in shadow, veiled and kept aside sits untouched, and unchanged, and too often that sin lays waiting, patiently, clawed and fanged, waiting for opportunity to slip out and make some noise.
"Your sin will always find you out."