Since I was a girl I’ve carried a heavy conscience.
When I was young I knew where my parents hid all the Christmas presents. I dared not snoop, because I was afraid of what my mother told us – that if we snooped she would take all the presents back to the store – but also because I knew I wouldn’t be able to bear the weight of my guilt for peeking.
Okay, I did it once anyway.
The guilt nearly undid me, ruining a surprise and knowing that I had betrayed my parents’ trust. I didn't confess, but have carried it around with me all these years.
The things I’ve been guilty of since that Christmas knock that small transgression into the atmosphere. Lying, cheating, stealing, lusting, coveting, envying, judging – have I hit all the wicked sins yet? I’ve done them all. I remember them all. Each one has brought me grief. Sometimes the grief is immediate. Sometimes it is latent, brought out again when my defenses are down and I have nothing but time to remember.
Age and love have all but washed my conscience clean, yet still the most egregious sins haunt me. I inwardly cringe at these ones, sins that I’m sure would turn the love of my most loved into hate, the pardoning of my faults swiftly turning to human judgment, downward looks, whispering behind my back. Possible loss of relationships.
I would deserve it all, every single speck of it.
But I’ve already been forgiven.
I’ve asked for God’s grace and forgiveness for those sins. In fact, I’ve asked for it again and again, as if with each petition I would be that much cleaner, that much more forgiven. My conscience still nibbles at the edges of my mind; the consequence of my wrongs is that my memory of them holds. I get a reprieve when I’m aware of God’s forgiveness.
But of course that is not how God works. He doesn’t chip away at our sins. He wipes them clean. Once and for all.
God’s reminder that Jesus died for me and every single one of my worst sins is, thankfully, always there. He will never take back what he has already given. My heavy conscience is no match for God’s immediate and complete love. The Holy Spirit lifts my heart and I feel lighter. He shows me the words and brings Jesus to the front of my mind as if to say: Look. You have already been cleared of your crimes. Move on; accept the gift. Our God is so generous with me, with all of us.
His is a gift that will never be taken back.
“And by this we know that we are of the truth, and shall assure our hearts before him. For if our heart condemns us, God is greater than our heart, and knows all things.” 1 John 3:16-24 (NKJV)