Even when we’re our most disobedient, we’re forgiven.
by Mary Carver
AS WE ATE OUR TAKEOUT and queued up our shows on the DVR, my husband and I caught up on the business of the week. We talked again about our daughter’s behavior, and I confessed something I’d realized about the situation. “I can’t start fresh,” I whispered. “My frustrations just keep building and building, and there’s no break, no relief, no blank slate.” The conversations about our daughter’s disobedience and disrespect began bringing other issues to the table — namely, our own tempers. We realized that our short fuses were contributing to the problem, but we didn’t know how to fix it. I wasn’t sure how to erase the frustration and anger from day to day, how to start over instead of letting already heightened emotions continue to build. A fresh start began to feel like a hidden, holy grail of this season of parenting. I knew I needed it, desperately, but I wasn’t sure how to find it. Without a fresh start, though, there’s no forgiveness. And without forgiveness, I couldn’t find my way out of the garbage heap of anger. I couldn’t see the light of grace.
Of course, everyone says that admitting your problem is the first step — and it is. But even though this realization — and the courage to describe it out loud to my husband, to admit to this area where I knew I was falling short — felt huge, it wasn’t enough. I needed to make a change for our family. I needed to do something different. I wish I could say that difference happened naturally, on its own, that somehow I magically learned how to forgive and forget and shower my child and myself with grace. But that wouldn’t be true.
New Every Day
What happened instead was that I kept feeling angry and frustrated; I kept losing my temper with my little girl. And I kept remembering that I’m part of the problem. I would put her to bed, so mad at the latest argument and so glad to be finished with the day, and then I would cry because I didn’t know how to stop feeling that way. I’d taken one big step (identifying and confessing the problem), but I hadn’t made any progress since. I was stuck. But then as I lamented our struggle to her first-grade teacher, something did change. My daughter’s teacher suggested we use the same color-coded behavior chart at home that they use in the classroom. I knew several months into this school year how important the color chart was to my daughter. Every afternoon, her response to my question, “How was your day?” was what color she was on. A green day was good, average, normal, nothing to see here. A yellow (or even red) day meant she was crying before she even got in the car. A blue or pink day, though, was cause for celebration — high fives and hugs all around! We had made a half-hearted attempt to use a color chart at home before, and it didn’t help at all. But at this point, I wasn’t just angry and frustrated. I was disappointed in myself and a little desperate for help. And it worked. It worked! But not for the reasons I had expected. See, at school the colors came with consequences, and the good colors came with prizes. Plus, there was the added incentive of your classmates knowing where you stood each day. But none of that was in play at home. I wasn’t about to give out prizes for simple obedience, and her babysister didn’t care what color my daughter was on that day. What made the difference was that at the end of the day, no matter how ugly or difficult or red it was, I moved my daughter’s pin back to green. Every day started at green. Every day started fresh, blank, clean. It had the potential to be better or worse, but it started on green.
He Carries Our Burdens
Something about physically moving that clothespin back to the green spot on our laminated color chart reset my heart too. Even after the worst days, that simple gesture lifted a burden from my heart. Moving my daughter’s pin back to green let me breathe again. It helped me love her better again. And it reminded me that because of God’s great mercy, I get to start on green each day too. Though I struggle to be a good mom some days, God continues to be the perfect heavenly Father. So it should have been no surprise that His methods work for me too. God promises to wipe our slate clean, to remove our sin as far as the east is from the west. In the sacrifice of Jesus Christ, He offers us an abundance of mercy — and then He promises to refill that overflowing cup every single day. Have you ever struggled to offer fresh mercies to someone in your life? Or have you found it difficult to accept the grace that God offers you day after day? It can be hard to believe that He has that much forgiveness, that much patience, that much love for us. It can be difficult to comprehend that endless well of grace never running dry, poured out on us no matter how often our own records reveal our mistakes and failures. And if we can’t accept it for ourselves, we certainly can’t offer that kind of compassion to anyone else. So, how do we get “back to green,” accepting the gift of a fresh start from an all-knowing yet always loving God? We simply must open our hands to receive it. Rather than throwing them up in self-defense or covering ourselves in shame, we must humble ourselves, honestly and openly. His mercies are new every day of the year, but especially as we turn toward the cross and celebrate Easter, it’s time to lower our defenses and our pride. It’s time to allow God to strip away our sin and our distractions. And it’s time for the grueling work of saying, “More of You, less of me,” to our holy and mighty God — and meaning it. When we do that, our sins are forgiven and we can begin fresh. Essentially, God moves our pin back to green. The gift of salvation through Christ is that He sees us exactly how we are and knows just exactly how far below good we’ve fallen, but He doesn’t leave us in our guilt and shame. He doesn’t force us to feel the weight of our sin, because He carries that burden for us. Instead, He erases every sin we confess and loves us faithfully through the entire process. Just like my daughter gets to start on green every single day, so do we. Even when we’re our most disobedient, we’re forgiven. Even when we’ve spent a long season piling on layers of sin and shame, we’re forgiven. Even when we’ve been in hiding out of hurt or disappointment, we’re forgiven and we can start over again. With a fresh start, given freely every day, we’re loved right back to “green,” back to good, back to God. Do you need a fresh start today? Have you asked God to forgive your sins, giving Him the opportunity to lavish you with fresh mercies and grace? I pray this Easter strips away every layer of sin and shame, disappointment and resentment, frustration and failure. I pray the Lord leads you back to the green pastures of fresh mercies and grace that refresh your soul. I pray you feel the power of God’s love and His forgiveness, given freely through the blood of Jesus Christ. “Because of the LORD’s faithful love we do not perish, for his mercies never end. They are new every morning; great is your faithfulness!” (Lam. 3:22-23).
Mary Carver is a writer, speaker, and recovering perfectionist. She writes with humor and honesty about giving up on perfect and finding truth in unexpected places on her blog, MaryCarver.com. Mary is the coauthor of Choose Joy: Finding Hope & Purpose When Life Hurts, as well as a regular contributor to (in)courage and MomAdvice.com. Mary and her husband live in Kansas City with their two daughter.s
This article originally appeared in HomeLife magazine (April 2020). For more articles like this, subscribe to HomeLife.