A Gift Withheld


I still don’t trust myself.
I still haven’t forgiven myself.

Ouch. That was a jolting pair of realizations. Both stemmed from a talk on forgiveness that I ran across in my social media travels, a sermon on things that forgiveness is not. As I watched it, I was blown away by it. I had come to most of the points the pastor made in his sermon the hard way, as in I was told one thing and everything inside me screamed, ‘No, that’s not true.’ I clung to what I knew deep down was true no matter what anyone else told me. I know my long-time readers may find it shocking but, yeah, I do actually listen to that good voice inside from time to time. After all this time, it was incredibly reassuring and affirming to hear what I had held on to as truth proclaimed by someone I perceived as having greater authority than I in such matters.

Whoa. Wait. Back that up. I may not always hear God as clearly as I’d like but I do recognize truth when I hear it. So why does this pastor, whom I have never seen or heard of before have an authority that I’m willing to listen to? Why would I trust what he has to say on the matter more than what I have heard within myself? Especially given that we’d reached the same conclusions? Hard answer: I don’t listen to my own hard-fought-for truths. Why? Because even after all this time, I still don’t trust myself. Why? Because I haven’t forgiven myself for all my screw-ups.

It presents an interesting point. Forgiveness and trust are two very different things. As Rick Warren has put it, ‘Forgiveness is about past actions. Trust is about future actions.’ I accepted that truth some years ago when it comes to dealing with other people. I’ve learned to forgive without trusting and I’ve learned, the hard way, to withhold trust unless or until it’s earned.

So why am I holding myself to this impossible standard of linking the two? Is it that I won’t forgive myself until I can trust myself beyond the shadow of a doubt not to screw up my life? Or is it that I won’t trust myself until I can forgive myself for the things I’ve already done?

Which leads to another set of questions: Is it that I can’t trust and/or forgive? Or is it that I won’t? Do I refuse to give myself what I have granted to people who have hurt me very deeply? Do I refuse to forgive what Jesus himself has forgiven? Do I really refuse to accept that I will never reach a point in this life where there is no shadow of doubt?

Another hard answer. Yes, I have refused that to myself. Why? Because it’s easier to close down, to punish myself in my shadows for the mistakes that I’ve made than it is to allow myself to come into the light, to be vulnerable, to be open and to grow. Easier that is, until now.

Sometimes, my inner defensive walls get taken down a brick at a time, slowly and deliberately. Sometimes, they just get blown to kingdom come, leaving me wide open, defenseless and somewhat in shock.

This time is most definitely the latter.

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