I had made plans to write a bright letter about the blessing of redemption, a sort of encouraging way to look at the precious gift of God, but then I ran into my own sinfulness and the wretchedness of my own condition. I found out that I am a spiritual armadillo with a tendency to jump high when there are great evidences of God’s blessings, but to sink low in shame and grief when my actions fail to measure up to God’s standards for my life. So I have been fighting a battle of grief and misery over the carelessness of my own spiritual condition. I assumed that I was well in charge of my own life and therefore able to assist others from that secure position. What I found out is that I am neither in charge nor in control of my own unpredictability.
So this letter comes addressed to you from the level of my floor as I try to stand back up and pour out my guilt and pain to a Risen Savior. From this experience I have come to understand the helplessness of my own spiritual condition and can embrace more fully my need for the forgiveness of Jesus Christ in everything that I try to undertake. So in this letter I more fully approach you as a brother or sister in need of His tender mercies and ongoing encouragement. It is very easy to tell others how to fix the wrongs in their lives, and society seems to give an exaggerated for of importance to those of us who arrive beyond the year 65. It is all selfish nonsense to assume that any of us is in a position to criticize others or to make judgments about their spiritual integrity.
So this letter is written from a new understanding of God’s word in my own life. It is a continuing attempt to lift those who have fallen and become the target of society’s kicks and rejection. Seeing my own unworthiness so sharply defined against the holiness of God has been an event which I cannot explain in words. I am left with a greater level of intensity to be a witness and a friend to those in need of comfort and support. If I did not have this letter to write to you, I suspect that I would have lost my own sense of purpose after recent events. So I am humbled to be able to pour out my limited understanding of God’s grace and forgiveness. Perhaps we can assist each other down this road of life and celebrate the redeeming work of Jesus Christ together throughout eternity.
My day started with a breakfast meeting with a close friend. I define this as a closer friendship because there is nothing between us which bars the most intimate of conversations. Today’s conversation focused on the private effects of sin. I sat with him and poured out the recent events which have led me into the experience of disconnection with God. I was able to freely discuss my personal vulnerabilities and the ways that we try to hide from God after sinning. My behaviors were no different that those of Adam and Eve after their act of disobedience.
They hid out of shame from their loving Creator. I am no different, even though my wounds were self inflicted. The primary difference lies in the fact that through the mercy and compassion of Jesus Christ I was able to return and seek His forgiveness and restoration into relationship with Him: For me that is the essential message of redemption. The right to acknowledge my wrongs and ask for His forgiveness and mercy: There is no such thing as easy absolution from sin or cheap forgiveness. It cost Him his life, horrible torture, the rejection of society and burial in a borrowed tomb. That is a pretty hefty price to pay for my wrongdoing.
As I ask myself the questions about why He would be willing to do this for me, I am left with only one obvious answer. Why would anyone die for someone else, especially someone caught up in their own personal wickedness? It was the act of Supreme Love for a wretch like me. How can a Holy God descend to pay the price of my selfishness, in fact how can He even look upon me when I have made an instantaneous decision to do things my own way? Why would He not cast me aside and discard me like a broken tool of no use? This only answer is the true nature of His love for you and me.
I have sought his forgiveness and mercy and am comforted that out of the wicked experience He has allowed me to put these words down to share with you. I am indebted to His glory and majesty that even in the midst of my fall He can catch me and turn something repulsive into an act of fellowship with others who struggle with their own issues. Only God who walked the face of the earth like you and me could personally know the pain we endure when we cut ourselves off from His grace and goodness.
So my Easter defeat has become an Easter victory as I see His goodness and glory working in the shameful events. Like Peter on the sea shore after Jesus resurrection, I can personally understand the intensity of the questions which Jesus asked Peter. DO YOU LOVE ME, Jesus asked Peter three times. Three times Peter had to look at the shamefulness of his betrayal of his Friend and Savior. But hat experience of confronting his sinfulness in the presence of Jesus Christ was a time of healing and spiritual restoration. My personal confrontation with my own sinfulness while shameful and painful has become a touchstone of spiritual renewal and has strengthened me for the days ahead.
Do you need Him to renew you soul and refresh your spirit? Do you need to be washed in the blood of Our Lord and Savior. All you need do is ask for His forgiveness and He will pour out that blessing of restoration and redemption upon your request. I took several days before coming into a right relationship of repentance with Jesus Christ. During that time there was no spiritual comfort, only despair and personal humiliation over my wicked choices. Satan is an expert at encouraging us to sin and then when we go for I, he is the first to ridicule us before God’s heavenly throne. In that time immediately after sinning, he skillfully attempts to get us to believe that we could never be forgiven for our actions before a loving God.
What he does not want you to know is the fact that God never stops loving you and only waits patiently for us to acknowledge our sinfulness and ask for the restoration of fellowship with Him. That is the core of Christianity, our relationship with a tender and loving God. A God who was willing to have His Son die in our place. A God who would rather His Son suffer for us than to see any of us slip into hell based upon Satan’s lies. So if you are in that place of spiritual isolation, all you need to do is cry out for mercy and forgiveness. He will always hear His child’s desperate cry for help. My sinful slip may serve you well in ripping away the mask of spiritual exclusion which Satan craftily puts into the minds of those who have violated God’s law of love. But with that masked snatched away, his attempts to cut us off from the grace of God will always fail. Could you look upon a helpless child and not have any feelings about its vulnerability? That is the way that Jesus Christ looks upon us as we stumble through his lifetime. Always present and always a friend. So I would ask you to let my painful stumbling be a source of freedom for you no matter where your body may be housed. I was sorely troubled by my actions and wrote the following prayer calling out to the mercies of God. I share this with you out of a deep and abiding affection toward each of you, in the hopes that it will refresh and restore your own spirits.
THE SADNESS OF SINFULNESS
The dark garden of despair….
I wonder at the love that has restrained Your hand from smiting down. I am saddened by my sinfulness and betrayal of Your love. Oh Lord have mercy on me as I grasp the awareness that I have sinned against You, the One who has eternally loved me. There is a place of despair inside of me that feels it could never be restored to fellowship with You. I know that is a lie of the evil one, the same one who has urged me to make destructive choices. I cannot lift myself up, my burden is too great. Please have mercy upon me. For without Your mercy, grace and forgiveness I cannot take my next breath. My body must refuse the gift of the air that I breathe as it presses in upon me and reminds me that You care for me and love me in the most divine ways possible. I am repelled and filled with self-loathing that I would take Your sweet offer of friendship so lightly. Please Lord, hear my cry just one more time, let me hear the sweetness of Your comforting love. I cannot bear to remain apart from Your presence and I esteem myself as nothing in Your presence. If I lose You and Your love than I have lost everything with any meaning. So long, too long I have taken Your graciousness for granted. Always believe that I could enter Your throne room at any time and make things right with you by calling upon your mercy and forgiveness. My sin is not yesterday’s, but a lifetime of taking You for granted. I cannot bear to look at myself and the harm my actions have engendered in my life and the lives of others. The fact that I would choose to pursue a moment of distraction and to close my mind off from conscious contact with Your Holy Spirit disgusts me. I can see why hell becomes a personal choice and an absolute punishment. For to be cast away from Your presence is the greatest tragedy which could await any man. I have long known the words, without having the experience of this moment. God forgive me, I feel like nothing will ever be right again, yet Your word comforts me even at this grievous moment. I am an abject failure who has pursued my own understanding, which has been dimmed by my failure to pursue You as a light to my path. If you will grant me a brief moment of redemption and hope of eternal salvation, with Your grace I will live out my life in the grateful service to Your Holy Name. I have no claim upon Your Grace, I can only petition at Your bloodied feet for Your promise of compassion. Please Lord guide me out of this deep, dark garden of horrors, all of my own making and wash me in Your precious blood. Jesus I trust in you with all my heart.
Forgiveness, true forgiveness and redemption, is a gift of God. I can do nothing in my sinful condition to restore relationship with God. It is an act of incredible compassion and mercy that moves me from the clutches of sin and guilt into the Throne Room of My Father. I can do nothing to make things right, the gift only flows out of His great love for you and me. Most of us have no reference point in our lives to try to start to understand that kind of love. But the truth is that it is available to each of us as a free gift. Just for the asking. Please do not let your eternal life choices hang on my words alone. Ask Him yourself and experience His healing love for you. He will never fail to answer that simple prayer of a contrite heart.
Peter grieved his sinfulness and I have grieved my own. But that pain and shame has been washed away in the outpouring of God’s love for each of us. Continued stumbling in the darkness of life is a choice. Why not step into the light of His love and put that spiritual burden down. A spiritual advisor suggested that I seek counsel in Psalms 139 to allow the healing grace of God to restore peace to my soul. I want to share that short message with you.
O Lord, you have searched me
And you know me.
You know when I sit and when I rise
You perceive my thoughts from afar
You discern my going out and my lying down
You are familiar with all my ways
Before a word in on my tongue
You know it completely, Lord.
You hem me in-behind and before
You have laid Your hand upon me
Such knowledge is too wonderful for me.
Too lofty for me to attain
Where can I go from Your Spirit
Where can I flee from Your presence?
If I go up to the heavens You are there
If I make my bed in the depths, You are there
If I rise on the wings of the dawn
If I settle on the far side of the sea
Even there Your hand will guide me
Your right hand will hold me fast.
If I say surely the darkness will hide me
And light becomes night around me
even the darkness will not be dark to You
The night will shine like the day
For darkness is light to You.
For You created my inner being
You knit me together in my mother’s womb
I praise You because I am fearfully and wonderfully made
Your works are wonderful
I knew that full well My frame was not hidden from You
When I was made in the secret place
When I was woven together in the depths of the earth
You saw my unformed body
All the days ordained for me
Were written in Your book
Before one of them came to be
How precious to me are Your thoughts Oh Lord
How vast is the sum of them
Were I to count them
They would outnumber the grains of sand
When I awake
I am still with You.
If only You would slay the wicked Oh God
Away from me you bloodthirsty men
They speak of You with evil intent
Your adversaries misuse Your name
Do I hate those who hate You Oh Lord?
And abhor those who rise up against You?
I have nothing but hate for them
I count them my enemies
Search me O God and know my heart
Tst me and know my anxious thoughts
See if there is any offensive way in me
And lead me in the way everlasting.
The pridefulness that slips into our lives in the moments before we act on our anger, selfishness, greed or lusts blinds us to the danger in the moments just before we sin. It is only later that we look back and see how wrongful our actions were, but by then we are often left with the consequences which we must pay and the guilt we bear. This is true of everyone, not just those on death row. It seems to be the slippery slope leading to detachment from God’s ever present love for us. I hope that my words bring you a sense of comfort, rather than feeling condemned by another person. You see we share the same spiritual battle. Sin is sin and there are no grades to sinfulness. There is no such thing as a white lie, each event is evil and causes suffering for a loving God. But it is only with His grace that I can move toward living a different life. By myself I cannot do anything to change my own wicked ways.
Your current situation troubles my heart more than you could know. It pains me to see you struggling with choices that I know will harm you and leave you wounded for a lifetime. Yet I know that unless I let you move ahead and discover these things for yourself, then you will never come to understand how much I really love you.
When the steel cell door closed behind you it left a ringing sound in my memory that has echoed through all of my thoughts about you. Just as you suffer now behind walls and barbed wire, I also suffer to see you in such pain. It seems that you cannot hear my voice anymore saying I love you. You have forgotten the quiet moments we have shared in the past. Your very being calls out for care and comfort, but when I seek to bring you into fellowship with me, you push away and distance yourself.
So I am left with watching you destroy yourself and others. My only way to reach you is to stand apart and allow you to exercise your own free will. Perhaps in some future season your pain will become unbearable and in your anguish you will call upon me to come to your aid. That seems to be the way that many of my children find their way back into a loving relationship with me. I am waiting patiently for your invitation to come to your assistance. It is my great love for you that keeps me waiting patiently in the shadows of your life.
As you look at the cold starkness of the world that now surrounds you, it is difficult to remember loving moments and the warmth of someone who love you. While the cold prison environment embraces your body and limits your mind, please let your spirit reach out and be touched with my love and care for you. You are my precious child; how could I ever fail to remember you as my own. Come home sweet child, to the One who truly loves you and waits to welcome you back home. We will have a feast to welcome you home and you will truly be loved as one of the family.
Your Loving Father..
Every aspect of our lives is known to God, and in spite of all of our wickedness He never gives up on us. It is not your crimes or offenses that will determine where you will spend eternity. For mine are equally black, and my sinfulness haunts me. The only thing that will be asked of you on that day will be a single question about “Did you make Jesus Christ Lord of Your life?” If you can reply in the affirmative, then it is essential to know that you are RESTORED to fellowship wherever you are right now. There is no waiting period, it is an instantaneous transformation. A gift from The Holy Spirit: Only in eternity can any of us look back and see how God used all of the events of our lives to work out His divine plan.
That does not mean he allowed or encouraged our sinfulness. That is solely the realm of Satan who wants to see us in hell with him for eternity. Anything that reminds him of God’s holiness, he is intent upon destroying. Remember that each of us…thugs, murderers, rapists, thieves and liars were made in the image and likeness of God. WE each carry the indelible mark of God’s creative workmanship. If Satan can capture our soul then he delights in bringing his victory before the throne of God. Remember to read Job in your Bible. It will help you to come into an understanding of Satan’s role. It is always best to know your enemy, so you can guard yourself when he attacks. And he will attack you when you least expect it. I know because I fell down recently and have used that experience to create a shield of prayer and truth about you. Was my fall painful, yes, but it has taught me to remain ever watchful and to be on my spiritual guard at all times.
LORD, PLEASE FORGIVE ME
IN spite of my best intensions I continue to stumble and fall. When I am down on the ground again, I feel that I am so far from Your loving hand. Please Lord, reach out Your hand and catch me, like You caught Peter when he began to sink because of his doubt. Fill me Lord with certain knowledge of Your presence in my life. Help me to surrender all of my wickedness and the trash of my life. I believe that You can restore what the locust have eaten. I place myself in Your care. Jesus I trust in You.