I know it’s a gross image.
I was a very active child. I have the scarred up knees to prove it. Climbing and falling out of trees. Falling while running. Falling off bikes. Falling off the front stoop (or “steps” for you suburbanites). Falling over a dog’s leash and breaking my wrist. Falling down the stairs…you get the idea. With all of this adventure, I had plenty of scrapes and scabs. I was fascinated with scabs, often picking at them until they bled, exposing the white flesh inside. The blood was always cold and ran freely.
Anyway – this image came to me. Picking it is to keep reopening a wound over and over again instead of letting it heal in its own time. The process of healing seems unsightly so we try to skip over it and speed it up ourselves. According to doctors, ripping off a scab before the wound underneath has healed on its own increases the degree of scarring. The same goes with our hearts before God.
One year I sat on a porch while on vacation overlooking a beautiful landscape. As I journaled I basically cried in regret over the previous 30 years of my life. 30 years of my life! I regretting the whole thing – like throwing out the baby, the bathwater, tub and sink altogether.
I kept picking away at my failures, picking away at my sins, picking away at things that went wrong, picking away at my hard years. Somewhere in my heart I knew my thinking wasn’t “In Christ” at the time, but I felt so sorry for myself I couldn’t help it until the blood came gushing out.
It was years before I sought the mind of Christ on this. Thank God, He doesn’t get as hung up as I (and we) often do. In John chapter 4 when Jesus encountered the oft-married-living-with-her-boyfriend Samaritan woman at the well, He didn’t get into a whole sanctimonious speech about her wanton ways. He just pointed out the facts, spoke to her deepest need, and preached the good news. As a result, she didn’t feel condemned but went and got the whole town, “I met this man who told me everything I ever did!” She may have added, “He even knows all the men I slept with and that I’m a serial bride!” I’m sure she was also convicted of her sin but she spoke in amazement about the man. Not about her sin.
When the religious Jews brought an adulterous woman to Jesus, rocks in hand, Jesus again made a simple statement, “Let He who is without sin cast the first stone” (John 8:7), causing the men to walk away, from the oldest (with more time to sin) to the youngest. When only the trembling, guilty, adulterous woman was left He simply said, “Neither do I condemn you. Go and sin no more”. That was it. No long lecture about how she was a home wrecker, maybe had children out of wedlock, besmirched her name… Nothing but “Go and sin no more”. If this woman then went home and started reliving and dwelling on all of her sins, chances are she would be right back in another adulterous relationship. And so it is with us.
The Apostle Paul states that “worldly sorrow leads to death. But godly sorrow leads to repentance”. Worldly sorrow might seem religious with its breast-beating and all, but if it comes from the wrong source I can guarantee that the person will be trapped in their sin and far from God. It’s a vicious cycle.
When I pick at the scabs of my sin and shame until I bleed, then I am under condemnation, which is quite distinct from conviction – guilt which requires repentance. The bible says in Romans 8:1 that “there is therefore now no condemnation” for those who are in Christ Jesus.” We are “set free from the law of sin and death”.
How, then, shall I live? I can grieve for the mistakes and iniquities of the past and accept Christ’s forgiveness, believing his Word that I am “a new creation”. Or I can wallow in my sin and that of others as if Christ never died for me, as if His forgiveness was not enough, as if I died with Christ but was never resurrected.
One thing that I did to heal was to make scrap books for different members of my family. In doing that I realized that there were many more good times than bad, and that there were an awful lot of smiling, laughing faces in those pictures. That God brought redemption throughout. Granted, we don’t normally photograph people when they’re miserable, but it forced me to look at things in balance. I also surrounded myself with people more mature than I, and started to believe their counsel that “nothing is wasted. Everything is a lesson. And, that God can redeem it all”.
It took a long time, but I can finally look back – even feel sad at certain memories, but without the sting of remorse or shame. It doesn’t do me any good, anyway. Was it messy and ugly to heal, just like a physical scab is? Yes. As I let God heal me, did the skin underneath finally heal, with a slight scar so I’d never forget but minus the pain? Also: Yes.
Let’s stop picking and let Jesus do what He loves to do: restore.