We awoke in each other’s arms on the morning of our first day as husband and wife. It was a wonderfully simple pleasure, knowing I was lying not only in my new husband’s arms, but I was also lying in the arms of God, fully covered by His grace. I relished this time of feeling so safe and loved. The vows that we had promised to each other the day before were vivid in my memory. What God has joined together, let no man separate. I knew God’s blessing was on us, and our union as husband and wife. I knew He shared in our joy. During our honeymoon, I was consumed with the newness of our marriage and thoroughly enjoyed that time of intimacy with my husband.
And then we came home.
Eventually, as we settled into a routine, the newness wore off, familiar voices began whispering to me again.
There were mornings prior to my relationship with my husband I had awoken in a bed beside a man with whom I hadn’t felt safe and loved. Now, I was covered in guilt, regret, and consequence. It became increasingly hard for me to separate loving my husband from the purely physical acts of my past. Feelings of shame, disgust, and disappointment at myself came flooding back.
These feelings took me by surprise. I thought once we were married all the guilt I felt for past decisions would automatically disappear. I had prayed to God about my regrets, knowing He is a God of grace and forgiveness. I was confident He had forgiven me. Why then was I continuing to be burdened with the choices I had once made?
The intimacy between my husband and I became strained. I tried to hide my pain, but he is amazingly sensitive to me and knew something was wrong. When I explained to him where my pain came from, he often took it personally, fearing my love for him had faded, or my attraction to him weakened. I made myself vulnerable to him, talking about my past and the way I felt about myself because of it. He comforted me and reassured me of God’s forgiveness and of his own. Although I knew both of those things, I still couldn’t get past the overwhelming guilt I felt.
Then I realized they had forgiven me, but I hadn’t forgiven myself.
When I looked at myself I saw the person I once was, the one who had rebelled against anything viewed as taking away my freedom. I saw how I had tried to mask my insecurities and my disregard for others, and for myself. Also, how I carried feelings of filth and unworthiness.
And then through His Word, my loving and ever-forgiving Father gently spoke this to my heart:
Awake, awake, O Zion
Clothe yourself with strength.
Put on your garments of splendor,
O Jerusalem, the holy city.
The uncircumcised and defiled
will not enter you again.
Shake off your dust;
rise up, sit enthroned, O Jerusalem.
Free yourself from the chains on your neck,
O captive Daughter of Zion. (Isaiah 52:1-2)
He spoke to me of where I was, face down on the ground, beaten and bruised, and then gave me a picture of where my He wants me to be―free. My guilt over my past choices had enchained me and held me captive. I held tightly onto this guilt with both of my hands because I didn’t think I really deserved to be forgiven. And because they were bound, my hands were unable to reach out to other people and love them like I so desired to do. They were unable to love my husband like I desired to do. My hands were unable to hold onto God like I desired to do. And my hands, chained to my past guilt were unable to receive the blessings my Father so desires to give to me.
I know for the rest of my time in this world, I will be imperfect. I will make mistakes. I will make decisions that will try to keep me under a cover of guilt and try to bind my hands and prevent me from being all who God has created me to be. But, thankfully, I have a God who forgives, who tells me His burden is light and His yoke easy, and desires to relieve me of the guilt I think I have to carry. He wants to strengthen me and guide me into right decisions, so I can live a life of obedience, honor, and freedom. Free from guilt, free from
chains that try to bind me.
Although imperfect … I am forgiven.