Monday, January 13, 2014

Sinner's Prayer

When she came with lips trembling and head bowed, I knew she was gathering the courage to tell me something that was weighing like ore in her heart.  You saw it?  And the hand reaching into her pocket, fumbling to pull out the troubling slag.  That, too? 

Of course, you saw.  You knew.  But it was a surprise to me.  I wouldn’t have picked her to be the child to take something from a store, even something that was being swept up in a trash pile by the teenager working his after-school shift.  I would have assumed that was something the boys would dare to do.  But once she opened her little hand to reveal those glassy blue mounds of temptation, it all made sense.

Remember how she had wanted to spend her dollar on a bag of those vase gems?  And I had said, No, pick something more useful.  Like a coloring book or some stickers.   And she had obeyed.  But while I was looking at the gift bags along the wall at the other end of the store, she must have gone and disobeyed.  Just a handful, not a whole bag.  Just the ones that were sitting in a pile with the rest of the broom’s collection, waiting to be swept off the floor.  Yes, it’s easy to justify a trespass when the harm never leaves our own heart.  After all, her treasure was just their trash.   

But her heart is so very tender.  You know it well, better than I ever will.  How she can never hush the cry of her conscience any more than a lamb can suppress its bleating when the ewe draws near.  I’m thankful for her tenderness, but it worries me, too.  Because so often, she turns it against herself in the construction of that serpentine glass house.  Lines her missteps up like a row of rocks.  And puts a slingshot in your hand.  

You heard her confession.  Her begging me to take the gems back and quietly slip them into the dustpan so that no one need be the wiser.  You saw the struggle of hesitation.  The one she held back, rolling its smooth sides around in the palm of her hand, waiting to see if I would relent to leaving one behind.  Surely you felt her fear, the whispered dreading that while the store owner might never know her sin, you would never forget it

The anger and indignation I felt at those last 5 words were surprising to me, too.  How dare that ancient thug lay such a trap against a young child and try to wrest away the yet-pure trust she has in her Father!  What gall to hammer a wedge between her and the strong arms that ache for such a moment as this, arms that wait to draw her in and assure her that no matter the flaw, the mending has been made.  

Thank you for pressing grace-laden words to the front of my mouth so she could hear love first instead of reprimand.  You know it’s taken me years to raise them first when I’ve missed your mark and needed to be similarly comforted.  You know the locust years that wasted away while I fought to believe your love was really what I dreamed it might be, but feared that it was nothing more than a strong cup of condemnation as the world so often pours you out to be.  

Be sure your sins will find you out!

Never doubt, what goes around comes around!

The Lord never slumbers nor sleeps!  

Remember how long I tried to push the memory of my sins aside, hoping to put as much distance between myself and your disappointment in me as I could, feverishly constructing mileposts of approval that would keep me in your good graces and next in line for an answered prayer?  But in the deepest recesses of my heart, believing that the going around would eventually lead to a coming around meant that someday those black marks on my tally sheet would be at my heels again.  You’d have the sovereign right to call me to account.  And I’d have no recourse but to accept the stoning of your righteous anger.  I felt such fear of you through those dark years of my life.

Remember know how long I lived with my eyes always on the horizon?  Constantly checking on my failures.  Wanting them pushed from sight and yet paralyzed at the thought that once they dropped off the edge of my memory, I would look down to see them resurfacing from behind, demanding their dues, fearing that no matter how far something treads west in this world, it eventually finds its way back east again.   

But now I see how you sweep away our missteps, our failings and disappointments on a different plane, one that never bends itself back around to wound us again.  And I want that surface to be the first place she sees you, too, when she’s weak in her choosing or wavers in her stand.  I want her eyes to look up, in the way of David, who himself knew the depth of man’s transgressions and yet cast himself into your compassion with confidence.  He knew that his feet could no more reach the burial ground of his sin than his hands could stretch out and touch the foundations of Heaven’s walls.  He felt so loved by you during those dark years of his life.

It takes a righted heart to understand it and the battle of this life is the turning from the hiss and the howl that tell us otherwise.  It’s not earthly to believe in this absolute acquittal.   Daily, I need… she needs…all of us need your help to navigate the celestial routes you have mapped out for us, the higher roads that are loaded with your forgetting grace.  

Remind us, Father, that Jesus, in our place, endured sin's brutal assault, rendering our debt accounts closed.  Show us yours hands, flinging the heavy stones of our trespass off the edges of your memory and into the depths of unsearchable waters.  Wrap us in the peace of knowing that your greatest love overtakes our greatest need and lifts us forever above the shattered glass of the old man’s house.  

For I will forgive their wickedness and will remember their sins no more...

Hebrews 8:12



  1. You are such an amazingly Godly woman, and an incredible mother. I remember giving in tob temptation as a young girl, a then 1¢ tootsie roll. My mother found me out and dragged me back to the store with shame and embarrassment. That was a long running theme with me and God, believing He only wanted to shame me. Don't be fearful of your daughter's gentle heart, she is like her mother and I would say that's a gift indeed.

    1. Thank you, Steph....for me it was a small glass tube of tiny beads in my kindergarten teacher's supply closet (funny that L also took something shiny) ... I remember feeling such terror at being discovered! I spent years, too, believing that the heartache and loss we went through during the first years of our marriage was directly coorelated to God finally meteing out punishment for sins of my childhood and youth. It's only been in the last few years that I've broken free from that false prison. Now when I see the bricks being laid for a new one, I can't help but work to tear it down, especially when it's starting in a young child.