About this author: Mary Emily Slott works at a ministry that helps women who are experiencing addictive and destructive cycles in their lives. She is many things, but above all, authentic. You can read this in her piece below. She is also intelligent, sees all people as equal, and sincerely believes in (and sees) the internal freedom Jesus provides. I am honored to call her a friend.
I work with women who have experienced hardship, pain, and faulty love. Their family members taught that love came at a cost. The women had to give something to experience the love of their parents, significant others, and friends. They were taught that they were only as good as their next accomplishment and that forgiveness isn’t something freely given. This was blatantly clear to me this past week.
My clients have been complaining…a lot. They have told the volunteers how unfair I have been and how they want things to change. The complaints range from it being too cold in the house (68 degrees) to having to clean my office (which I haven’t asked them to do in a month…it needs to be cleaned) to having to stay up till 8pm for the newly initiated prayer time. I like being liked and their complaints disturb me on some level. I want to give into their wishes but I also know that doing so would not help them.
After a timely devotion by a co-worker on Colossians 3, one of the clients came to me. This particular client usually leads the charge of complaining. She is a negative Nancy and has often worn me down to the point where all I have wanted to do at the end of some days is go home, lock myself in my room, and sit in silence. But when she came to me that day she simply confessed to being negative and apologized for her continuous complaining spirit. Though totally caught off guard, I managed to whisper, “Thank you for apologizing. You’re forgiven.” And with a simple nod, she left the room. I found out days later that she had never heard the words, “you’re forgiven” before. Her family had often used her mistakes to punish her, shame her, make themselves feel better, and her feel low.
How sad I felt for her at that moment but also how much hope I felt for her too. I had hope that she finally tasted that forgiveness and love we have in Christ. His love and his forgiveness are given freely and at no expense except faith. There is no action and there is no expectation laid upon her by Him. Her experience represents that of so many. We forget that God does not take our mistakes or our outright rebellious moments and continuously point them out to us. 1 Corinthians 13 reminds us that He does not keep a record of wrongs. No. He forgives even if we don’t ask him to, want him to, or don’t deserve it. Because of this we no longer need to feel the shame of our sins and mistakes. We can live with hope and peace knowing that Jesus’ sacrifice made us right with God. And as Hebrews 4:16 instructs us, we can in confidence approach our God knowing he will not condemn us but that he will help us as we overcome this world and the pain it inflicts upon us. I pray this for my client and I hope you pray this for yourself as you seek to understand what having your identity in Christ means.