Years ago, when I was home alone all day with two little boys and desperate for adult interaction, I attended a Beth Moore Bible study course on The Fruit of the Spirit. A pastor's wife led the group of fifteen women, weekly gathered round our Bibles and the edges of the square conference table. I was the only Catholic in the room and a brand new one at that. Luckily, that was of no consequence, as we shared our personal struggles freely and supported one another in our efforts to more fully understand Galatians 5:22-23(NLT).
But the Holy Spirit produces this kind of fruit in our lives:Love, Joy, Peace, Patience, Kindness, Goodness, Faithfulness, Gentleness, and Self-control.
There is no law against these!
I learned so much during those discussions but one statement the leader made has never left me.
One particular mom was tearfully sharing how much she regretted some of her mistakes as a parent. Yelling at her children, being sarcastic with them, generally "losing it" when pressures built up and she exploded, taking her stress out on her little ones. She said, "I just cannot forgive myself for what I have done to them!"
Ever so calmly the pastor's wife laid a comforting hand over the mom's clenched fist and said, "Nowhere in the Bible are we told to forgive ourselves. That is God's job."
Immediately, I had thought of the Sacrament of Confession in the Catholic church. So often criticized by outsiders, including myself not so long ago, I suddenly understood the amazing grace offered to us through this ritual. We aren't responsible for forgiving ourselves because that would take forever. We are humanly incapable of such a divine act. Relief flooded me. I needn't resent the confessional any longer. It was God's way of reaching out His fatherly hand to me and whispering, "Come. Let it go. I can take it from here."
There is such freedom in forgiveness. Even if you are not Catholic and prefer to pray away your sins in private, God still forgives. A priest just helps make it more tangible - a witness to God's gracious act. And most importantly, God expects you to receive it, freely, with gratitude and humility. Accepting that gift can be the hardest part. Instead of saying, "Oh no, you shouldn't have" and thrusting the gift back toward the Giver, try opening your hands, letting the grace of forgiveness fill your palms to over-flowing and say,
"Thank you. Thank you. Thank you. It's just what I needed."
Women Living Well Wednesdays