Many promising reconciliations have broken down because, while both parties came prepared to forgive, neither party came prepared to be forgiven.
... Charles Williams
The gesture of forgiving someone else is often referred to as “extending the olive branch”. How peaceful is that imagery? The phrase conjures a picture of biblically-attired individuals, stepping forward in dusty, sandaled feet and stretching out a hand to offer and receive a leafy twig in reconciliation.
Self-forgiveness doesn't feel like that at all to me. When it comes to forgiving myself, it’s not a peace summit olive branch that comes to mind. It’s more like a flag raised on a bloody battlefield.
Part of the difficulty is as long as I carry guilt, it seems like I’m paying back some of the debt I drove up in my sin. This is really like telling God, “Thanks for the mind-blowing grace, but no thanks.”
That’s why grace is so mind-blowing a concept. It is undeserved, given by God in love. No martyrdom required.
The other part is that I forget that feeling unforgivable is a weapon of warfare. Self-condemnation is my using the enemy’s bullets and firing at my own spirit. How long I suffer is up to me. The enemy will keep engaging in that battle until I surrender my sins at the cross and leave them there. At the cross, where the war has already been won.
Regret for bad choices is healthy. It keeps me from repeating the past. But hauling around self-condemnation and accepting it as collateral damage is not what Christ came to earth and died for. Like many wars, he fought for freedom – but on the ultimate level.
Good vs. evil. Life vs. death.
So, today, I am choosing to forgive myself. And by doing so, I am choosing to drop an atomic bomb on the devil’s ammunition storehouse so he cannot use my past against me anymore and call it “friendly fire”. A dusty, barefoot soldier raising a flag red with the blood of Christ, even though I don’t deserve to even carry it.
It feels like shock and awe.
It feels like victory.