Following the Master – The Need for Forgiveness

How are you at following the Master? Do you always succeed? Have you reached a level of perfection? I know… that is funny. It’s funny because only the very proud would claim such a thing. However, it is sometimes hard to admit that we stumble even when we are trying to follow Jesus with our whole heart. So when you do mess up, what do you do then?
Let me admit it, sometimes I stumble horribly.  God has protected me in so many ways, but I stumble still.  I am reminded of the verse, “For we all stumble in many ways. If anyone does not stumble in what he says, he is a perfect man, able to bridle the whole body as well.” (James 3:2)  This is a great encouragement and a great disappointment to me.  I am encouraged that everyone stumbles.  This puts me into good company.  However, the verse also says that we stumble in many ways.  I don’t like stumbling many times.  It makes me vulnerable to criticism.  It makes me vulnerable to valid criticism.  I can rail against invalid criticism.  Howeverm I am helpless when that criticism is valid.  I feel like a failure.  I feel judged (even a bit unfairly).  I feel helpless to make it right.
Do you ever wonder how you should respond when you fail the Master?  I will tell you what I do, and what I think the Bible tells us to do.  First of all, I pout a bit.  No, I am not recommending it.  I’m just being honest.  I get so disappointed in myself that I pout and beat myself up over the incident.  Second, I heap blame and self-loathing on top of my wounded spirit.  Do you ever do this? 
After I have wallowed awhile, then I begin to do what the Bible tells me to do.  It says to confess an awareness of the sin to the one you sinned against (confession).  Then it says to turn away (repent) from that activity just like turning around on the walking trail by my house.  Then it says to seek to make restitution if necessary and possible.  Finally, it says to receive forgiveness and begin anew.  God doesn’t hold grudges.  Sometimes people do.  Sometimes people forget that we are all strugglers and even the best intentioned among us is going to make mistakes sometimes.  God, however, never does forget what we are.  He knows.  He loves.  He forgives.  He renews.
What about you?  Do you struggle with your failures? Do you struggle with receiving that forgiveness when you stumble?  Do you wallow, as I do, in a pile of self-condemnation for a while before you turn to the powerful promise of forgiveness?  Are you one of those who judges quickly and then holds a grudge?  Aren’t we glad that God works completely differently from us?  He is not some demanding or demeaning boss who is looking for faults to find.  He is our Master Craftsman whose only desire is to teach us how to make great works of beauty and wonder out of our lives.  He is interested in perfecting us, not because He delights in correction but because He delights in us being the best we can be with Him.  May we all find sweet forgiveness and restoration in Him today.

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