The Wedding Day
Soon the wedding day arrived. I contemplated when I needed to leave my home to arrive an hour early at the wedding site. Thankfully, I remembered there was a time change between Indiana, where I live, and Michigan, where the wedding was to take place. Unfortunately, I somehow reversed in my mind which way the time changed. I thought Michigan was an hour behind instead of an hour ahead. I realized my mistake about an hour from the wedding chapel.
Picture this: the chapel was full of family and friends, the musicians were ready, the wedding party was in place, but the preacher was nowhere in sight. I can’t express the embarrassment and pain I felt when I realized what I had done. I knew I had let this couple down in a very profound way. Before I could even think of what to do next, my cell phone rang. All I could do was express my humble apology since I was still an hour away.
As it turned out, they were able to find someone else to step in for me at the wedding. I finally arrived just as the ceremony was finished. To face the bride and groom and their families was undoubtedly one of the most humbling moments of my life.
Have you ever been going along and unexpectedly an experience is brought to mind that triggers a feeling of guilt or embarrassment from something in your past? For me, even though everyone involved in the wedding was more than willing to forgive, I can’t hear about a wedding, go through a time change, or see a wedding party member without those feelings rushing back.
Sometimes our remembrances are from honest mistakes, but sometimes they are from moments in our lives when our decisions truly let our friends or family, and certainly our Savior, down. And sometimes, even if those whom we have hurt or offended forgive us, we have a hard time forgiving ourselves.
Not long ago, I visited a church where the pastor asked me to meet with a man who had asked for special prayer. As he shared his story, he revealed all the horrible things he had done in the past. He shared how he had hurt his parents, wife, and children. He could not forgive himself though he had asked for their forgiveness and received it. For years, he had been on a self-destructive path of drugs and alcohol to try to take away the pain he felt from his past.
To understand and experience forgiveness the way God wants you to, you must first experience God’s forgiveness. You must also be willing to forgive those who have wronged you, accept the forgiveness of others, and finally forgive yourself. By not forgiving yourself, you become vulnerable to the temptation of succumbing to self-punishment. This in no way can bring you peace. It can leave you uncertain about your standing with God and how He relates to you. It can also lead to unworthiness, ultimately paralyzing you in your Christian walk.
So how do you move forward when you struggle with self-forgiveness when disappointment in yourself confuses your thinking about your self-worth?
When Israel crossed over into the Promised Land after wandering around the wilderness for 40 years, God instructed Joshua to build a monument to commemorate this moment. “So Joshua called the twelve men whom he had appointed from the sons of Israel, one man from each tribe; and Joshua said to them. ‘Cross again to the ark of the LORD your God into the middle of the Jordan, and each of you take up a stone on his shoulder, according to the number of the tribes of the sons of Israel.
“Let this be a sign among you, so that when your children ask later, saying “What do these stones mean to you?” then you shall say to them, “Because the waters of the Jordan were cut off before the ark of the covenant of the LORD; when it crossed the Jordan, the waters of the Jordan were cut off.” So these stones shall become a memorial to the sons of Israel forever’” (Joshua 4:4-7, NASB).
If ever there was a bad decision made, it was 40 years before when Israel turned its back on God’s leading and, as a result, nearly a whole generation died in the wilderness. Why would God want to make a memorial from a very painful experience? The truth is, the memorial was something that brought much hope, peace, and healing to the children of Israel. When the Lord cut “the waters of the Jordan,” it was a miracle that demonstrated His continual love and care for the Israelites.
Memorial of God’s Love
I can only imagine that when the memorial site was visited throughout the years, each one must have been reminded of God’s grace and forgiveness. They must have been reminded that God never turned His back on them despite their disobedience. They must have also been overwhelmed with the marvelous way God sustained and preserved them during this difficult time. And finally, despite their failures, they must have been amazed that God had a future planned for them. He had in no way given up on them and was still leading in their lives.
Are you struggling with self-forgiveness? Once you have done all you can to make things right with God and those you hurt, I invite you to remember how the Lord took one of Israel’s greatest failures and turned it into a memorial of His love for us. Whatever it is you might be struggling with, rather than make it an unbearable burden, turn it into a memorial of God’s forgiveness, His grace, His sustaining power, and His hopes and dreams for your future. This memorial you build will help you understand for years to come the truth about God and how He relates to us.
Experiencing total forgiveness is what the Lord wants for each of us. This is no time for us to be paralyzed in our Christian walk. Soon and very soon, there will be another wedding when Jesus comes to claim His bride. And trust me, you don’t want to be late for that wedding!
Gary Thurber writes from the midwest.
By Gary Thurber. Reprinted with modifications from the Lake Union Herald, November 2006, p. 18-19. Modifications were approved by the author.© 2002 - 2022, AnswersForMe.org. All rights reserved. Click here for content usage information.