I will no longer wound myself with the thoughts and questions that have surrounded me like thorns: that is a penance You do not ask of me. – Thomas Merton, The Sign of Jonas
Have you ever watched a kid when he knows he’s in trouble? A friend’s son came home from school one day and found his mom intensely focused on cleaning – not terribly unusual. But when he said hi, she didn’t say hello back. And when he tried to make small talk, she didn’t engage.
“What’s going on, Mom?”
“Let’s wait until your father gets home.”
He figured his mother had found out that he’d skipped class; but for the next 30 minutes, that young man sat in uncomfortable anticipation of the consequences.
This is one type of discipline we experience in human relationships, but this isn’t God’s way of handling our wrongs. Jesus doesn’t sit silent and disapproving, allowing us to squirm in our sin. Instead, we are told to “approach God’s throne of grace with confidence” (Hebrews 4:16).
Some of you are thinking, Absolutely! So long as I’m feeling holy. When everything is good, it’s easy to approach Jesus with confidence. But right after we sin? A bold approach is not our default setting. Our default is to hide in shame.
Why is that? An incorrect understanding of Jesus’ response to our sin creates a hesitation in our approach toward Him. We hide until we can either fix it ourselves, or forget about it. It’s as though we’re convinced Jesus doesn’t like us very much after we fail. Rather than placing confidence in our approach toward grace, we seem confident that He’s disappointed in us.
So we give ourselves penance. We’ll do something to prove how sorry we are before approaching that throne of grace in confidence – now confident that our penance washed us clean.
This isn’t it, friends. Trying to clean ourselves up before we come to God is law, not grace. We are misunderstanding the heart of Christ. We need to understand the mindset of Jesus both before and after we sin.
King of kings, it’s entirely possible that I trip over my own misconceptions of You as I approach. Holy Spirit, silence the lie that tells me to deal with sin on my own before coming to the Father. Amen.
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