For his unfailing love toward those who fear him is as great as the height of the heavens above the earth. He has removed our sins as far from us as the east is from the west. The Lord is like a father to his children, tender and compassionate to those who fear him.
Psalm 103:11–13 (NLT)
The day I realized my children could empty the dishwasher was a game changer for me. This almost-daily chore was the bane of my existence, and, much like a child myself, I always put it off in favor of doing anything else. But now my girls could be responsible for putting away our clean dishes while I made dinner or finished up a work project, and it felt like a domestic miracle.
Of course, handing off this chore to my kids meant that I’d occasionally find dishes in the wrong spot—or go for a day or two without being able to find a dish I needed at all! And then there was the inevitable accident, when my youngest dropped a bowl on the kitchen floor. In a split second the ice cream bowl I had painted for my husband at a long-ago paint-your-own-pottery night shattered beyond repair.
Startled at the noise, both our heads snapped up as we stared at each other. Her eyes bounced between my face and the ceramic pieces at her feet as she visibly began to panic. “Mommy! I’m so sorry! I’m sorry, Mommy! It slipped! I’m sorry! Ohhh, I’m sorry!”
“It’s okay,” I assured her. “What happened? Did something break? Are you okay?”
She told me that she’d dropped a bowl and that it was broken. I instructed her to stand still so she wouldn’t step on anything sharp. I told her that it was okay, that accidents happen. Then I walked into the kitchen to clean up the mess and realized which bowl had broken. When I saw that it was my one bowl that’s truly irreplaceable, I couldn’t hide my disappointment — which my daughter mistook as a sign that she was in trouble.
“I’m sorry . . .” The rush of apologies began once more, as she tripped over her own tongue, trying to make sure I knew how very sorry she felt. She told me again that it had slipped out of her hand, working so hard to convince me that she hadn’t broken the bowl on purpose, that she wasn’t being neglectful or irresponsible. And I told her again that it was okay, working hard to convince her that I wasn’t angry and that I knew these things just happen sometimes.
Round and round we went, her apologizing and me telling her it was okay, as I picked up shards of my pretty bowl and wrapped them up for the trash. For days she apologized and I forgave, nearly to the point of being annoying! As she finally accepted that she was forgiven (or simply forgot the incident), I realized that how she acted is how I often act when I’m the one who needs to apologize.
I do it to my friends and family when I’ve wronged them, whether it was intentional or as accidental as a little girl dropping a bowl on the kitchen floor. Over and over, I bring up my transgressions and express my deep remorse in an effort to assure them I recognize how badly I messed up.
I do this with the Lord too. As soon as I realize I’ve sinned against Him, I turn my eyes to His face — shocked, panicked, afraid of the consequences to come. I begin my apologies without taking more than a second or two to reflect on anything other than my regret (and my desire to avoid getting in trouble).
When I’m calm and reasonable, I know my heavenly Father reacts just like I did with my daughter and the broken bowl — compassionate, concerned for my well-being, and merciful. But in the moment I recognize my sin, I’m flooded with regret and fear and immediately begin working to earn His forgiveness.
But forgiveness doesn’t work that way. The Lord offers us mercy and pardons our sins not based on the vehemence of our apologies but because of the sacrifice Jesus made when He died for our sins. On the cross He said, “It is finished,” not, “Tell me again how sorry you are.”
Christ died for us. God forgives us. It is finished.
If you find yourself apologizing over and over, attempting to prove to God or to others just how remorseful you are, may I gently suggest you stop? Our heavenly Father has promised to remove our sin as far as the east is from the west. Believe in Him. Believe in His promise. And accept His forgiveness. Let it stay finished so you can live forgiven.
Heavenly Father, thank You for Your mercy. Thank You that I don’t have to beg for it but that You give it to me abundantly because of Christ. Forgive me for where I’ve gone wrong, and please help me trust Your forgiveness and rest in Your compassion toward me. In Jesus’s name, amen.
This article was written by Mary Carver, as published in Empowered: More of Him for All of You.
Empowered: More of Him for All of You, by Mary Carver, Grace P. Cho, and Anna E. Rendell is designed to incorporate the five major components of our being — physical, mental, emotional, relational, and spiritual. The sixty Scripture passages and devotions invite you to see from different angles how God empowers us, and each day ends with prayer and reflection questions to deepen the learning. Grab a copy now. We pray it blesses you.Leave a Comment
Ruth Mills says
What a great example of how we so subtly try to earn forgiveness with our repeated apologies even when we say we know His work on the cross has taken care of our sins. Thank You God, it is finished!
I too hate emptying the dishwasher. Maybe I’ll be more enthusiastic about it thinking it as a reminder of God’s great work on my behalf. Blessings, Mary!
How I wish I could finally and totally embrace this.
Gail Mattox says
I would like a copy of the book mentioned today, but don’t have funds to purchase it, I am a senior citizen on a fixed income. Gail Mattox, 2200 Kerwin Rd. #411, University Heights, OH 44118
Omigoodness. You had me at the title of the post. There are so many things that go over and over in my mind…..some of which are definitely wrongdoings but others are things I didn’t do “wrong” at all.
AMEN! Can I please ask for prayers? My Mama and I are going through a REALLY hard time with my dad’s care.
Amy and Linda
Ruth Mills says
Dearest Father surround Amy & Linda as they care for dad/husband. You know what is needed & I ask that You give them wisdom, insight & endurance on this path. Enable them to lean on each other in healthy ways as the timber of caregiving changes the dynamics of their relationships. Give them peace & comfort in the details of the trenches. Be tangible to all 3 of them. Use this time to deepen their faith roots & draw non-believers to Yourself as they witness You shining through the dark patches. Be magnified. Thank You for the gifts of relationships, prayer & Your presence in our lives. In the almighty name of the Great Physician, Redeemer & Comforter of the Downtrodden, Jesus, Amen! (((0)))
In agreement, Amen.
Thank you, Mary. Wise words to remember.
I’m having a hard time forgiving my husband whose sin he committed years ago has caused brokenness in our family. Pray I can forgive even though others haven’t.
Sometimes I think I’ve learned this lesson, and other times…well, this post resonates! Lol Thank you, Mary, for this beautiful reminder that we don’t have to (and can’t!) earn forgiveness but that we get to securely rest in it.
Ariel Krienke says
This is so beautiful. I used to over apologize myself. Now I know without a doubt God truly loves me because Jesus finished it. He took all my sins away. I don’t want to ever lose my faith because it is so precious.
BC from BC says
Thank you for this reminder. It is so good to know how much God loves us, we can forget as we get wrapped up in what’s going on in the world. I love that we don’t have to beg God for anything. I get discouraged when those we care about won’t reciprocate the love we give and feel at times I am silently begging for their love. However, what’s most important that I remember the love God has always had for me forever.
Beth Williams says
Jesus died on the cross for our sins. All we have to do is accept Him as Lord & Savior of our lives & all our sins are forgiven. That doesn’t mean we won’t mess up here & there. Life is hard down here. We must repent & ask for His forgiveness. It will be granted He loves us that much. We can’t beg, plead or earn that love. It is given freely. May we always remember that!