Last Fall I went through Beth Moore’s Bible study on secrets. The entire summary of it is this: Secrets manifest. They always do, in one way or another. Bad secrets that are never told in words are exposed in the lines on our faces, the way we treat others, the dreams we live at night, anxiety, eating disorders, anger. But there are good secrets, too. Things we keep to ourselves so that God can get the glory later.
Sometimes we confess something before the Lord privately, but we never talk about it. We carry the guilt as a secret – even though we think we’ve dealt with it, we can’t even whisper the words of it out loud.
That’s what happened to me a few months ago. It was time to go and we were late – really late. And I was tired – really tired. Malachi had been at his worst and today was no different. No matter what I told him he did the opposite. I pulled out his brown sneakers and he insisted on the white ones. I asked him to walk to the door and he had to stop in his room to get things. And then we walked to the front door and I saw it – the pile of toys I’d bought on sale for Christmas that I had accidentally left on the couch. Well of course he rushed over and absolutely ignored my every call for him to come to the door. Finally I lost it. I got angry – really, really angry. I was stressed and late and none of that was his fault, but I took it out on him. He burst into tears, upset and scared, and immediately my stomach dropped and I realized how awful the whole thing was. And for whatever reason, even after I apologized to him and prayer journaled about it, I carried that guilt for weeks. I could not get over it.
So I told my husband, thinking maybe that would help. And he understood my guilt and did not condemn. He told me he thought Malachi didn’t even remember. But it didn’t help.
I told myself I was making a bigger deal out of it than it was. I told myself that Malachi had forgiven me and I needed to forgive myself, too. I ignored the guilt that wouldn’t go away.
Then I remembered something we’d talked about in the Bible study – the power of spoken-aloud prayer. I am an avid prayer-journaler and rarely pray aloud for that reason, but one day I was in the shower and I just couldn’t take it anymore. No one was around and I just poured out my heart to God. I told Him about my guilt, about how confused I was over it. I told Him how I just couldn’t get over it and begged that He would help. I just verbally gave it over.
I did feel lighter but still not great when I sat down to do my Bible study homework that day. We were supposed to read a passage from Hebrews and as I picked up my iPod to use my Bible app, the Lord whispered, “Use your regular Bible.” I’m reading through the amplified Bible right now, and to be honest, I find it more exhausting than encouraging most of the time. So I wasn’t too excited, but I did it anyways. And this is what I read:
For we do not have a High Priest Who is unable to understand and sympathize and have a shared feeling with our weaknesses and infirmities and liability to the assaults of temptation, but One Who has been tempted in every respect as we are, yet without sinning.
Let us then fearlessly and confidently and boldly draw near to the throne of grace (the throne of God’s unmerited favor to us sinners), that we may receive mercy [for our failures] and find grace to help in good time for every need [appropriate help and well-timed help, coming just when we need it].
Hebrews 4:15-16, AMP
Tears streamed down my face. Mercy for our failures. Mercy for our failures. This was what God was trying to tell me – Yes, you did fail. But I have mercy for you. I have forgiven you. His grace isn’t just sufficient for my imperfections – He has abundant mercy even in my failure.
When I closed my Bible study book I moved on to my daily Bible reading, which passage happened to be my favorite story in all the Bible – John 21. When Peter – crazy, overzealous, relate-able, wonderful Peter – sees the Lord on the beach. He hasn’t spoken to him since before His death, and their last interaction was the knowing look Christ gave Peter right after he denied Him. Can you imagine the utter guilt Peter was feeling? So instead of helping the disciples paddle quickly to shore, Peter puts on his coat and jumps in the water, swimming for all he’s worth to reach the sand. Later, when they were walking, Christ asked him,
“Simon, son of John, do you love me more than these do?” He replied, “Yes, Lord, you know I love you.” Jesus told him, “Feed my lambs.” Jesus said a second time, “Simon, son of John, do you love me?” He replied, “Yes, Lord, you know I love you.” Jesus told him, “Shepherd my sheep.” Jesus said a third time, “Simon, son of John, do you love me?” Peter was distressed that Jesus asked him a third time, “Do you love me?” and said, “Lord, you know everything. You know that I love you.” Jesus replied, “Feed my sheep.”
And in that moment, after I had spoken my ugly secret into the open and laid it before the Lord in our beautiful secret place, He whispered to me, “Your children are my sheep. Shepherd them.”
God had walked me through the restoration process, and there, sitting on my bed, crying tears of joy and resting in the arms of my Father, for the first time in weeks, I was free.
He has mercy for your failures. Trust Him.