Self-flagellation

With the time I spend in recovery, and with others in recovery, there are always similarities, parallels and common themes.  One of the most destructive I believe, that can prevent us from growth, is this ability to forgive ourselves.  It’s self defeating, leads to ongoing guilt and shame and hinders our growth.  It’s self-flagellation, or flatulation more appropriately because it stinks not just for us but we bring it with us into our contact with others who notice it as well.  Our sins can be great or small, regardless though when we’re stuck beating ourselves up we have to find ways to move past it.  Admit our wrongs, present ourselves to God, pray for forgiveness and move on because you’ve been forgiven.  In my daily chair time I’m working through the Old Testament, right now there’s a big focus (rightfully so) on David.  A great man, with some moments that could have defined him.  Him sleeping with Bathsheba, her pregnancy and then his decision to send Uriah to the front to be killed could have led to destruction.  Though of course as most of us can relate, it wasn’t without pain along the way.

God sent Nathan to call David out, and let him know that his sin committed in secret will be brought to light before others.  He spoke openly about the effects of his sin, and the destruction it would lead to.  David confessed his sin to Nathan, and in turn was told that his sin had been *put away* but he would still have punishment.

2 Samuel 15-18 And the Lord struck the child that Uriah’s widow bore to David, and he was very sick.  David therefore besought God for the child; and David fasted and went in and lay all night [repeatedly] on the floor.
His older house servants arose [in the night] and went to him to raise him up from the floor, but he would not, nor did he eat food with them.  And on the seventh day the child died.

Despite being forgiven, David went on to prostrate himself, depriving himself very openly leading up to the death of their child.  Then a funny thing happened once he found out his child had died…

2 Samuel: 20-23  Then David arose from the floor, washed, anointed himself, changed his apparel, and went into the house of the Lord and worshiped. Then he came to his own house, and when he asked, they set food before him, and he ate.
Then his servants said to him, What is this that you have done? You fasted and wept while the child was alive, but when the child was dead, you arose and ate food.
David said, While the child was still alive, I fasted and wept; for I said, Who knows whether the Lord will be gracious to me and let the child live?
But now he is dead; why should I fast? Can I bring him back again? I shall go to him, but he will not return to me.

David got stuck in what he had done, and while few among us would question his sadness before his child died he had received forgiveness.  He was however in a place where he had trouble forgiving himself, and even kept himself away from Bathsheba during the week leading up to their sons death.  How many of us create distance when we know we’ve done something wrong, we’re responsible to some degree.  Afterwards he seemingly picked up and moved on.  Then and only then, did he go to his wife to comfort her.  He wallowed in his sin, knowing what he had done and couldn’t face his wife knowing his sin was going to result in the loss of life.  David finally made it to a point of acceptance, and forgave himself.  It’s doubtful that this didn’t mark him in some way, but it’s the same for all of us.

Wherever we’re at, no matter how far down the road of recovery we are there will be those moments that we reflect or are confronted by the pain of our actions.  It’s not a bad thing to again put our wrongdoing before God, lay them at His feet and pray for forgiveness.  At that moment, it’s up to us whether we freely accept grace or if we keep ourselves apart from that gift guaranteed to us by Christs sacrifice.  If we don’t that’s our choice entirely because we’re forgiven.  The pain we submit ourselves to can prevent us from seeing others, and breaking through the cycle of deprivation.

The inverse is also true.  If we can receive forgiveness and accept it we’re brought back into relationships vertically as well as horizontally.  It can lead to growth, it can lead to deeper faith and stronger, more intimate relationships.  Opening ourselves up to one another strengthens our bonds with one another, shows our vulnerabilities and draws our relationships closer.  We’ve all experienced both, myself included and I’m not immune to deprivation.  However after sharing my experience, strength and hope  the past several years I’m called out by the people I’m close with because I need those reminders I’m forgiven.  It’s not always good to hear, it can certainly be painful but out of pain comes a lot of growth.  None of us needs to beat ourselves up, we’re forgiven.

Grace, peace and love
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