Originally published Wednesday, 04 September 2013.
I flopped down on the bed and breathed a sigh from deep within. It had been one of those days that went from bad to worse. My chronic back pain had flared up that morning and I spent the day in moaning in agony. Not wanting to keep my pain to myself, I took it out on my kids in impatience, sarcasm, and irritability.
Before tucking them into bed, I asked for their forgiveness. "Of course I forgive you, Mommy" was their gracious response.
As I laid in bed and reviewed the day in my mind, I felt waves of guilt wash over me. How could I be so unkind? Will I ever overcome my struggles with impatience?
In the book of Nehemiah, the exiles had returned and rebuilt the walls of Jerusalem. In Nehemiah 8, the Israelites were gathered to hear the law of God read by the Levites. For many, they had never even heard the law read before.
"The Levites...read from the Book of the Law of God, making it clear and giving the meaning so that the people could understand what was being read. Then Nehemiah the governor, Ezra the priest and scribe, and the Levites who were instructing the people said to them all, “This day is sacred to the Lord your God. Do not mourn or weep.” For all the people had been weeping as they listened to the words of the Law. Nehemiah said, “Go and enjoy choice food and sweet drinks, and send some to those who have nothing prepared. This day is sacred to our Lord. Do not grieve, for the joy of the Lord is your strength.” The Levites calmed all the people, saying, “Be still, for this is a sacred day. Do not grieve.” Then all the people went away to eat and drink, to send portions of food and to celebrate with great joy, because they now understood the words that had been made known to them." (8:7-12)
Following that long day with my kids, guilt bore down heavy on my heart. I felt the weight of my sin. In Nehemiah, the Israelites had heard the law read to them and came face to face with their sin. They realized just how far they had fallen. They also felt their guilt and grieved over their sin.
We can't stay in that place of guilt. Our sin should drive us to repentance and to the cleansing grace found at the cross of Christ. Each time we sin, we need to embrace the gospel again. The first of Martin Luther's 95 theses was "The entire life of believers is one of repentance." Our journey in faith is a continual cycle of sin, conviction, repentance, forgiveness, and humble gratitude.
As we go through that cycle and receive forgiveness, we are amazed and wonderstruck at the depths of God's grace for us in Christ. In fact, the cycle of repentance should bring us joy because it draws us closer to Christ. The more we repent, the more we understand the riches of God's love for us and the more we rejoice. The cycle begins with seeing our sin and ends in gratitude for all we have through Christ.
My impatience with my kids is an ongoing struggle for me. The apostle Paul had his own ongoing battles with sin. He expressed this frustration in Romans, "I do not understand what I do. For what I want to do I do not do, but what I hate I do." (7:15) He concluded by saying, "What a wretched man I am! Who will rescue me from this body of death? Thanks be to God—through Jesus Christ our Lord!" (Romans 7:24,25)
That's it! Paul felt the weight of his sin, turned to the gospel, and responded in thanksgiving to God. Our own sin reveals our continual need for the cleansing blood of Christ and leads us to gratitude as well. Like Ezra told the Israelites, we do not need to grieve, instead we can rejoice. And just like the Israelites, we can party! We can live a life of thanksgiving--for though we are more sinful than we ever thought, we are also more loved and more forgiven than we will ever realize.
Until that Final Day, when my redemption is complete, I will continue to fight my sin of impatience. I will also continue to live out this cycle of repentance, drawing ever closer to my Savior who has rescued me from this body of death. Thanks be to God, through Jesus Christ our Lord for the gospel which saved me once and for all at the cross from the power of sin and which saves me daily from my ongoing fight against the presence of sin that remains in my heart. Now that's a reason to rejoice and party! Who's with me?