…he said to her, “Woman, where are your accusers? Has no man condemned you?” She said, “No man, Lord.” And Jesus said to her, “Neither do I condemn you: go, and sin no more.” (John 8:10-11)
I once read these words of Jesus like this: “OK, I am letting you off the hook this time, but don’t let it happen again!” I thought that was the essence of God’s mercy – we are sinners, we get saved, he forgives our past sin, and he insists that we shape up and act like Christians now. As a father, I applied this same mercy to my own sons – “I warned you once, you have no excuse this time!”
I was a miserable Christian for many years, enjoying this merciless mercy. My sons didn’t fare much better. I had embraced a twisted view of God and I was passing it on, misery begetting misery. Nothing caused me more pain than the pain I was inflicting on my own family. My angry, screaming rage when my demands for perfection were not met hurt me more than any other sorrow in my life. I often wept in shame in my room after ‘correcting’ my sons. But I could not change. I did not know how.
The lie was embedded deep in my heart. Pain hardened my heart lest it be touched by anyone. It took time for God to break through, to get inside the shell, to shine his light. But he was patient and did not give up. Yes, God wants us to stop sinning. That is not the lie. The lie is about the how and why and when and who.
In God, I have a Father who loves me. He is not the demanding Father that I was. He does want me to grow and mature, because he loves me and he sees in me now what I do not yet see. He wants to free me from the agony of being a wounder, and grant me the joy of being a healer, because he is kind. He brings this change by healing my heart, by the therapy of his own Spirit deep within. He nurtures the child in me, patiently and gently, because he wants me to be patient and gentle. He does not demand this of me – he gives it to me.
I have known no more wonderful experience of the kindness of God than this change of my own heart, this deliverance from my own sin. What hurt me most, he has taken from me. What brings me the most joy, he has given to me. He has surrounded me with peace, and opened a well of love and mercy that spills over to my children and my wife.
Am I perfect now? Of course not. Do I still get angry? Yes, occasionally. Do I yell at my children? Very rarely.
I am in kindergarten with my teacher God. I am learning everything I need to know, right here. He leads me through my lessons eagerly, but patiently. He knows why I still mess up sometimes, and he gets inside my head and my heart and brings out another dusty lie. He says “Do you still want this old thing?” Sometimes I think I do, and he waits for another time. But when I am ready, he sweeps the lie away, and I see things afresh once again. He is so kind.