What’s the worst thing you ever did? For many of us, certain actions immediately spring to mind, while for others, several different events may wrestle for the dubious distinction of being “the worst thing.” Sadly, most of us have little difficulty recalling some egregious errors in our past.
While listening to a sermon a while back, I heard the preacher quote someone else who said, “Each of us is better than the worst thing we’ve ever done.” Although I remember nothing else about this message, that quote stuck with me as I pondered its truth. Too often, we allow our most infamous sin or shortcoming to permanently define who we are and how we live.
Initially, this quote was used in reference to prison inmates, specifically those on death row or persons serving life sentences. Oftentimes, one particular action, perhaps done in anger, under the influence, or in youthful foolishness has indeed determined their earthly destinies. Regardless of the regret and enormous desire to do so, it is impossible, however, for any of us to go back in time and do over any life event.
Nevertheless, it’s important to realize there is much more to each life than simply our worst action. Every person has thoughts and feelings, gifts and abilities, dreams and loves that also should be acknowledged. Even though criminals should receive their just punishment, that doesn’t mean we should cast them to the ash heap of humanity or neglect their other gifts. How many of us should have spent time behind bars if we had been caught and convicted of everything we’ve done?
However, even for those of us not in jail, our “worst things” often imprison us. We don the guilt every morning when we climb out of bed and wear it in disgrace all day long. We mistakenly believe that everyone else knows of our actions and are judging us harshly for them. We constantly live under the umbrella of shame that we imagine others place over us.
The truth, however, is that in most cases, those around us either don’t know or have long ago forgotten our “worst things” and have moved far beyond them. Even truer is that in too many cases, everyone else is hiding behind their own “worst thing” and don’t have time to look into ours.
Jesus came to earth to remove our “worst things” and to set us free from them. He came to cut through the iron bars of our shame and guilt and release us into life again! He knows the worst things about us and loves us anyway! His love for us is not based on our behavior but on His sovereign choice to make us His. He wants nothing more than to remove the worst things from our records and our consciences and remove our umbrellas.
Receiving the forgiveness and new beginning that Jesus gives us doesn’t mean we may not have to endure earthly consequences of our actions. Criminals will still have to fulfill their sentences, trust may be irreparably broken, and relationships may be permanently damaged, but spiritually, our records can be clean before God. We can take down our umbrellas and live in the glorious sunlight of emotional freedom released from the overwhelming guilt and shame.
As we experience this new life, we are free to enjoy other dimensions of our life and get out from under the shadow of our “worst things.” We can develop and use the many gifts God has creatively and spiritually given to us. And we can relate to others without a veil of humiliation in between.
Likewise, we need to see others beyond their “worst things.” As they turn from their sin and receive God’s mercy, we need to set aside our judgement and allow them to be who God has called them into existence to become, just as we would hope they would do for us. God’s forgiveness sets whole prisons free and empowers the ex-inmates of shame to enjoy deep and meaningful lives together!
If you’re still living under the “worst thing” you’ve ever done, confess it to God and ask him to forgive you through the blood of Jesus. He’d like nothing better than to remove that umbrella, cut your bars, and set you free to live for Him. If you have experienced this liberation, thank and praise the God who made it possible and share Him with others.
Thankful to be out from under the umbrella, George