It was a Friday morning and my mom had just offered to take the kids to the park so I could have a few hours to myself. “Yes please!” was my response. It had been a trying week of mothering. Every meal had been a flop, I was snapping at the kids, I wasn’t finding time for exercise. My self-confidence tank was running on low, and time alone to refuel sounded like a gift straight from heaven.
We switched cars to avoid the hassle of moving carseats, which meant I got to drive my grandmother’s car that my parents borrowed during the week — her big silver Buick (known to some as “the boat”). It was a gorgeous autumn day and I knew exactly what I needed – a little bit of retail therapy. I pulled into the mall parking lot making a mental list of the stores I wanted to visit. But just as I started turning into an empty parking spot I froze…was it just my imagination or had I heard a thud?
And then, the horrible thought flashed through my mind. Did I just hit another car?!
No, definitely not. I thought. There was no way I could have done something so stupid. Not in my grandmother’s car. Not when I finally had a moment to myself…
I slowly reversed the car and looked towards the black Honda beside me. Across the rear side of the car was an ugly white scratch at least a foot long.
My hands began to shake. My stomach went queasy. My body temperature rose. Panic. I wanted to run. I needed to escape.
Everything in me wanted to pretend this had never happened. How easy would it be to just drive away, I thought. And so I started to do just that.
But after a quick loop of the parking lot I knew that running wasn’t the right thing to do. It wouldn’t make all of this disappear and the guilt would eat me alive.
I called my husband first and that’s when the tears began to flow. Then I tracked down the security guard in the mall, voice trembling as I asked him for help in finding the Honda’s owner. My endless apologies when I phoned my dad were met with his gentle, reassuring voice. “It’s okay, honey, I’m just glad you’re alright.”
A few hours later I received the dreaded phone call from the owner of the Honda. Would he scream? Track me down to tell me off? Try and wrestle as much money out of me as possible? But he didn’t do any of this. He surprised me with his calmness, his understanding, his forgiveness.
Where’s the punishment? I thought. Where’s the yelling and scolding? But it never came.
I had been so ashamed of my mistake. Sure, it was just a scratch, but the feeling of failure overwhelmed me just as strong as if it had been something a lot worse. I was terrified of disappointing everyone. It was like all of the flaws I had been trying so hard to keep hidden had finally been exposed. I felt ugly and unlovable.
But no one looked down on me. Instead, I was accepted. That’s when it finally sunk in — This is how God sees me! I knew God loved me, but something had been blocking this truth from really settling deep in my heart.
The culprit was shame. I believed I was unworthy, end of story.
But that didn’t have to be the end of the story. I found myself at the foot of the cross, the same cross He died on almost 2000 years ago, hearing Jesus speak these words: “Look. Look at how much I love you. See how far I am willing to go for you. Not because you are perfect but because you are mine.”
This is the beautiful, profound truth we must marinate ourselves in:
But here is how God has shown his love for us. While we were still sinners, Christ died for us. (Romans 5:8, NIRV, italics mine)
On that sunny, autumn day I had to let go of the identity of “unworthy” and accept His forgiveness. I had to stop striving and trying to perform, and just let myself be loved. And when you can let yourself be loved for who you are — a beloved creation of God — despite what you’ve done or not done, it hammers away at the wall of shame you’ve built around your heart.
I’ve been working on this with God. I now hear his kind voice, and actually believe him, when he says, “Andrea, I love you with an everlasting love. You are the apple of my eye, my precious daughter. Now put down your defences and let me love you.” And I do. I lay down on the couch, close my eyes, and imagine his arms wrapping around me. His smile widening when he sees me.
I want to spend the rest of my life going deeper into that love, letting the shame fall and shatter to pieces at His feet.