A so-called sexual revolution unfolded back in the '60s, making for a very unnerving time for parents of those coming of age . . . and a very unnerving time for those coming-of-age as they witnessed the unwinding of their parents's sexual mores. Fifty years later, the revolution looks quaint in comparison to the sexual submersion of the culture in which we live today, which is, we may as well admit, anything but cultured. The scars of the '60s are manifesting themselves into the struggles of this second decade.
The losses mount.
The scars are deep.
The visibly-scarred go through a period of adjustment, a time when they believe that when anyone looks at them, they see the scar first and foremost, and, for a while, it seems they forever will. Then, one day, it seems the scar, even still visible, is almost not there; the person behind it overwhelms it. So it should be, and can be, with those who are scarred spiritually and emotionally, even when it is the searing mark of sin. When people practice compassion, perfected with truth, the scars become transparent and the damaged soul shines through.
Do you ever wonder why some things from your past remain embedded in your memory and come up like an instant replay, over and over again, as if, with repeated viewing, there might somehow come some sense as to why they are so visually permanent? It is like if we relive them again perhaps they will have a different ending or a better explanation, as though our vision will suddenly clear up and catch something we never saw before. We don't recall everything, but surely there is a reason for every recall to which we cling, depositing it in our memory bank as if it were too valuable to relinquish. For instance, I can recall my father's smile, yet I rarely saw one past my childhood. I haven't pulled a crawdad from a creek in decades, yet when I close my eyes I can see the pinchers and watch myself carefully remove them from the bacon-bait on the end of the string, like an old black-and-white movie with a happy ending, little boy fingers pinch-free.
My father's smiles and creepy crustaceans are all wound up in how I came to be, and how I either flap in the gentle breeze or fall to the ground in a wrinkled heap. It is all a part of the mystery of strength and weakness, of pleasure and pain, of defeating misery and soaring melody, of unending sadness and unequaled joy. Of good and evil. Of self-centered sin and unselfish selflessness. It is the weight of who I am. And those who know me . . . or of me . . . pick and choose and reconstitute at will, coming up with some images I recognize and some I don't.
Among those memories that I replay is an odd one from my middle school days. Armed with a treasured hall pass, I made my way to the restroom, pushed open the door and stepped inside. The lights went out, an arm went around my neck, placing me in a choke-hold and throwing me to the floor. A bigger kid said something I did not understand, kicked me and walked out into the bright hallway leaving me lying on the floor. I sat in stunned silence for a minute, stood, brushed myself off, wiped away a tear I would tell know one of, and made my way back to class and said nothing.
Why do I remember? Well, for one, it was frightening. Two, it made no sense. Three, it diminished me to a little kid in the dark. Four, it was never reconciled; I don't know why he did it. Five, I know I was the victim of whatever weight he bore inside. It wasn't fair, but I couldn't fix it so I never forgot it. It is history, but it doesn't fade with time. It isn't watered down by the millions of memories since.
I was never one to become really absorbed in history. In school, I tended to memorize facts for tests and occasionally got enthralled by a historical shocker here and there, like the
I know . . . those who fail to learn from history are doomed to repeat it. Boy, don't I know.
A few years back -- more back than I want to acknowledge -- I was set to co-write a speech with my boss for an executive in our company who was preparing to address a group of regulators about the great damage being inflicted on us by what we had determined were unreasonable laws. As we walked back from the executive's office with our mandate to produce something memorable and hard-hitting, Dennis, my co-worker, got all excited and began to frame the speech. He had decided we would frame it around the Peloponnesian War. Snore.
I pictured our boss at the podium as the regulators dozed off and fell from their chairs into the aisles, dreaming as they went down of more laws they could pass just to punish the speechwriters. Dennis clearly loved history and thought there was no limit to how it could be applied or what we could learn from it. I could clearly see I was going to become a Peloponnesian victim. Fortunately for me, Dennis became distracted and the war was edited from the final draft.
No doubt you know that the Peloponnesian War, which
Remorse: Moral anguish arising from repentance for past misdeeds; bitter regret.
Repair: to restore to a sound or healthy state; to make good.
Remove: to do away with; eliminate, as in remove a stain.
We can regret. We can express remorse. We can work within ourselves to repair. We can struggle to remove all evidence of the stain of bad decisions and thoughtless deeds. Yet . . . there they lay, waiting for an unforgiving finger to push the rewind button and replay them and remind us of what we perceive as our unworthiness. Did too much to too many. And, as if energized by the retelling, the past roars back into our minds and drags us into unrelenting real-life repetition. The weight of who we were is constantly struggling against the weight of who we are in a tangled wrestling match designed to keep us down on the mat.
We are forgiven. When we ask. Which is an integral part of regret, remorse, repair and remove.
Why is it that the unwillingness of men to forgive and forget so crushes the immeasurable grace of God's willingness to forgive and restore? And why is it that our own inability to forgive ourselves outweighs everything and slides in from all sides to suffocate us and pull us down in weakness when it is clear we are meant to soar in strength?
We're all broken.
And the truth is, even in our own brokenness, even when we want to take full responsibility; sometimes we're clearly disappointed with God. Like David in Psalms, we want to know why He is so silent when we are so filled with groans. We want to know why He feels so far away. And, you know what? He's fine with us asking.
And yet, in a later Psalm, David says:
And not only is He faithful . . . but He provides a way out. When we are exhausted by the relentless pull of sin or when we are swallowed up by the waves of temptation that seize upon us or when we are drowning in the discouragement of our failed attempts, He sees and knows . . . and provides a way out.
Do you think there is even the slightest chance that the temptation that is feeding your depravity is a surprise to God? Do you think that perhaps you have done something so bad and repetitive that He just shakes His head and says "This one is beyond me? I created the universe, from the tiniest cell to the brightest star, but I'm at a loss."
God is only limited when we limit Him to the scope of our own imagination or the depth of our own experience. And even then . . . He waits and He anticipates our turning and He hears our groaning and He heals us. And He lifts the weight of our selves and carries it away and replaces it with His yoke, which is light, so much lighter than what we put ourselves through in our fumbling attempts at self-restoration.
Again, why do we carry these sins on our own, repelling the power of forgiveness? Well, for one, they're frightening. Two, they make no sense. Three, it diminishes us to being little kids in the dark. Four, it seems not to be reconciled; we don't always know why we do it. Five, we are embarrassed when we find ourselves to be victims of whatever weight we bear inside. And sometimes we think it just isn't fair, but we can't fix it so we never forgot it.
God can carry the weight. He is never frightened. He is never diminished. He reconciles everything. He knows why we do what we do. He can fix all, in His own time and in His own way. If we trust.
Lay it down, leave it there. Don't say it can't be done. Seek the forgiveness of others. Forgive yourself. Seek righteousness. And live. And the angels will rejoice, regardless of what men say or do.
There is one other thing about those shirts waving in the drying breeze. They're clean. The stains are gone. The scars will also fade, as healing comes.
(Have you read "Who Told You You Were Naked?" Well, then, how can you answer the question? I hope you'll order a copy from Amazon.com.)