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She knows my sin

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My heart is quick – and eager – to return to its previous ways. Sins that I thought had been overcome seem to be stirred up in an instant, and rear themselves into my life with fresh zeal.

I long for approval, to be regarded highly, valued and appreciated. To be told I am loved and cared for. All the things that the world would tell me I deserve and that would be helpful in cultivating a healthy self-esteem. 

Today I had a conversation with a friend, one that should have been a simple and brief matter, yet my twisting and deceived heart turned it into a sinkhole. She was seeking to caution me before I let some trivial issue plant deep roots within me. And instead of welcoming her guidance, I preemptively told her, “Please don’t correct me, just let me get this out and let me be upset for a minute.”

I anticipated her correction. I knew what she was probably going to say. And I didn’t want to hear it. Here I was bemoaning someone else’s thoughtlessness toward me, complaining that I deserved to be treated better, all the while giving no thought to the wise counsel my friend tried to offer. Instead of plunging with me into the waters of self-interest, my friend sought to keep me on the shores of stability and truth. Rather than thank her, I spurned her.

She was so right when she said, “I know how you are.” She knows me well. She knows that I am prone to seek recognition for my good works. She knows that I sometimes do things with the expectation of a return. She knows that when I am hurt or offended by something, it’s usually because I took it as a direct personal attack on me, instead of leaving room for the humanness of others to be forgetful or sidetracked by other (more important) matters. She knows I parse every detail of the things people say or don’t say to me, and read all the lines in between. She knows my sin.

My selfish and approval-seeking pride continues even in my repentance. I am always prone to view my sin through a selfish lens. I rehash the details, playing it over and over again, wallowing in desperation. I start examining the ways I didn’t think rightly, didn’t respond rightly. I become consumed with doing enough penance, feeling “bad” enough, to regain my standing with God.

I forget that my hope is not based upon my ability to not sin, but on Christ’s perfect record and his performance on my behalf. Even as my friend knows my sin, God knows it entirely. And he has already forgiven it and does not identify me by the character of my sin. He looks upon me with the tender and kind love that only he could. He “knows how I am,” yet he sees Jesus when he looks upon me.

Today, an ugly side of my heart made itself visible once again. Shame, frustration and discouragement could easily take up residence. But these would only evidence a desire to rebuild my self-image. What must take place in my heart and mind, in reflecting on this remaining ugliness, is to remember the One who is greater than me, and to come into his presence. As I sought to work through some thoughts on this, I was reading Scripture and listening to a sermon by Tim Keller. Speaking on Isaiah 6, he says this:

He [Isaiah] thinks everyone else is the problem. And then he gets into the presence of God, and he realizes he’s the problem. All of my people are unclean and I’m just one of them. Even my lips, even the best part of me, are unclean, flawed, wrong, selfish, distorted, twisted. Every single place in the Bible that a human being moves from God as a concept to God as a reality…they start to hate themselves.

Here’s how you know that you’ve begun to get into the presence of the real God. You think you’re a sinner. You think you’re lost. You see you’re more capable of cruelty, more capable of evil, more selfish, more petty, more small-minded, more impatient than you ever thought you were. And you know that you’re a sinner and that you need to be rescued by grace!

I don’t need to be affirmed or reassured as I confess and repent. I simply need to embrace God’s goodness in showing me my sin and then confidently plant myself in the truth of Christ’s sacrifice in taking that sin upon himself so that I can be free. Free. No longer enslaved to thoughts of self, reputation, or image. Free to go forth in service to him that is motivated by love and gratitude.

“Now the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom. And we all, with unveiled face, beholding the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from one degree of glory to another. For this comes from the Lord who is the Spirit.” (2 Corinthians 3:17)