On Saturday’s CVM Men’s Day in Scarborough, Nick Welford modelled transparency, honesty and integrity in his final challenge. He had never shared this story before the event.
Sometimes things must come out into the light. When I was a young teenager I was at a church event. The family of one of the church members were visiting. I was hanging out with the other youth and a lad from this family walked by, he was about the same age as me. He was disabled, and as he walked one of his legs dragged behind him. Our group all stopped and stared. And when he was gone, I, in all my wisdom, did an impression of his walk. The whole group laughed, until we looked up and saw this lad standing at the end of the corridor watching us. My friends rounded on me and berated me.
I tell you this story for one reason – it still haunts me. Even though it was 20 years ago and the man writing this is totally different to the attention-seeking arrogant teenager, I still wake up feeling guilty and shameful. How can I call myself a Christian? How can God love me when I could do that? And as I deconstruct myself, more memories of my failings assault me. Times when I didn’t measure up, when I deliberately went against God.
Damien Rice sings a song called ‘I remember’ and in it is the line ‘God will forgive me but I whip myself!’ And that’s the rub isn’t it? God can forgive us but if we can’t forgive ourselves we will struggle with to persevere. In Romans 5 Paul says this: “Not only so, but we also rejoice in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope. And hope does not disappoint us, because God has poured out his love into our hearts by the Holy Spirit, whom he has given us.”
When we can’t forgive ourselves we suffer but suffering can produce perseverance as long as we don’t dwell too long in the pit of suffering. Unfortunately that is a place many of us dwell.
Jesus tells us that we are the light of the world, and that we should not hide that light. When we wallow in self pity, shame and guilt we are effectively hiding our light. The fact is that the light is inside us is greater than the darkness that surrounds us – because that light is Jesus. The only person who can diminish the light inside us is ourselves! There is a quote in the film Night Watch that says this: “It is easier for a man to destroy the Light inside himself than to defeat the darkness all around him.” It is time for us to stop snuffing out the light and start the march on the darkness.
The prodigal son wasted his inheritance and ended up in a pig sty eating pig food. When we wallow in shame and self pity that is exactly where we end up, eating pig food oblivious to the fact that the Father is waiting to throw us a huge party.
I don’t know what wakes you up in the middle of the night and causes you guilt and shame, I don’t know how you have failed, but I do know that unless you use your suffering to persevere you will eat pig food for the rest of your life.
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