Begging For Retroactive Grace: When You Realize You Were The Stumbling Block

I haven’t lived a very good life.

I know that in the eyes of Christ, because I believe who he is and what he has done, that I’m forgiven for it. But that doesn’t change the horrible ideas I’ve embedded in innocent minds, the trail of destruction I left behind, the blasphemous garbage from this mouth that has thrown people off a brighter path.

I have God’s grace, but I beg Him for grace upon others I screwed up.

It keeps me up at night, stops me in my tracks, has me looking out a window gritting my teeth and weeping in prayer for those I used to know. I’ve hurt a lot of people. I betrayed their trust. I used them for what they could do for me.

I left a girl once in a hotel bed; snuck out in the morning. Tempted her, seduced her, tricked her: I knew what I was doing. Another girl, almost the same thing, and she has never been the same since. Part of me says I only exposed what was waiting to be unleashed, but the other part of me hates myself for doing it. No one else to blame, really. It makes me sick to my stomach.

Even as a pastor, I’m certain I’ve messed up souls. I pushed a kid in my youth group once; he never came back. Another one, I laid down some crappy advice. He went prodigal. Some of my old sermons: I see Pharisaical moralism, drops of bitterness, occasionally a sugarcoated easy-pill, no Christ at the center. I was a theological stumbling block. Jesus tells us that those who cause others to stumble should tie a millstone to their necks and drown in the ocean. I agree.

How can any of us really believe we don’t need forgiveness?

We have so often chased people to fulfill our selfish desires. It doesn’t matter that it’s consensual. It doesn’t matter that they turned out okay. When flesh dumps on flesh, there is always something irreparably lost. It becomes part of their life-story, and yours, and no amount of victory can smooth over the scar. One wrong word can irreversibly change the trajectory of a young kid forever. That’s so much burden, weight, responsibility.

God, forgive me.

Thank God He does.

The only freedom I can experience in all this is knowing that God loves us through all of it. He loves the numerous hearts I destroyed, including my own. I beg God would reveal Himself to them. Nothing else will get them through what I did, and nothing else can get me through what others did to me.

Without the love of God, we remain in a cycle of violence and victim. Jesus cut that cycle in the cross. That truth unravels our burden every step we take to the altar, when guilt threatens to crush us, because the Son was already crushed there in our place.

That’s the only possible love that allows this weary heart to sing.

We can only ask for grace to fill in for what we stole. To ask for grace where we have deep regret and remorse. To ask for future forgiveness for my children, when I fall short.

I can’t make excuses for the things I’ve done. In the sight of God, it was evil. I’m sorry. I can only pray as David prayed and ask for mercy, and that you wouldn’t allow anyone or anything to define you except Christ himself.

Please forgive me, and whether now or in eternity, I hope we will be all right.

Have mercy on me, O God according to your unfailing love;
according to your great compassion
blot out my transgressions.
Wash away all my iniquity
and cleanse me from my sin.
For I know my transgressions,
and my sin is always before me.
Against you, you only, have I sinned
and done what is evil in your sight,
so that you are proved right when you speak
and justified when you judge.
Surely I was sinful at birth,
sinful from the time my mother conceived me.
Surely you desire truth in the inner parts;
you teach me wisdom in the inmost place.Cleanse me with hyssop, and I will be clean;
wash me, and I will be whiter than snow.
Let me hear joy and gladness;
let the bones you have crushed rejoice.
Hide your face from my sins
and blot out all my iniquity.
Create in me a pure heart, O God,
and renew a steadfast spirit within me.

— Psalm 51:1-10

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