Every day allows us another chance to start over. While that might sound cliché and maybe even unrealistic, I believe that it is true and completely possible. It is probably not true that you’ll have the chance to start over in the eyes of other people, but for yourself and for God there are unlimited chances for renewal and forgiveness.
Growing up in the Baptist tradition, this idea of forgiveness was present, but did not seem as central to understanding God as in other traditions, namely Catholicism. I never had the experience or practical understanding of Reconciliation that classmates in my Catholic grade school did.
It was not until I went to high school (another Catholic school) that I was explicitly invited to partake in the sacrament. I didn’t know what to say or where to begin or really what was happening. I remember asking for forgiveness for my impatience and for disrespecting my parents. Even with that first confession experience in tow, I never fully understood absolution and forgiveness.
While the days between high school and now are few in number, I have developed a much better understanding of those experiences. I haven’t done anything wild and crazy, but I am starting to understand the difficulties that come with making choices in life, especially right after graduating from college. I struggle with feelings of doubt, insecurity and fear, and these emotions are ultimately detrimental to my relationship with God. For that, I ask forgiveness.
Asking for and receiving forgiveness is an extremely uplifting experience. No matter how much I struggle to live as a Christian in today’s world — and even as I struggle in my relationship with God — there is a great amount of relief and renewal in receiving forgiveness and the subsequent absolution.
I do a lot of silly things, things I cannot even begin to understand how I get into in the first place. It’s mostly just my age, learning and experiencing life as it happens. But sometimes I truly struggle — I struggle with being okay with who I am and with my decisions. What I have realized is that I am going to be making mistakes constantly — big and small, and some that might not affect me at all. I’ve also realized that I must not become preoccupied with sadness and disappointment over my sins. It truly is a sign of insecurity and the imperfect human condition. It creates a tension in my relationships with others, with myself and with God.
Yet there is an awesome renewal available to me. The moments in which I feel most insecure are the moments when I pray and ask for forgiveness for my own pride (or whatever it might be); and immediately I feel refreshed. To be sure, sometimes it is a longer process, and conversation with God or with my pastor, but the opening of my spirit gives way to so much strength and courage.
We can find comfort for our insecurities in the realization that God forgives us and ultimately mends us despite our sinfulness. It’s a refreshing thought that may only last a moment, but that moment has great power. We might mess up in the eyes of our peers and friends, but in God’s eyes, that is one step closer to understanding God’s role and rule in our lives. Our mistakes may startle us and remind us of our humanity, but more than that, they give us an opportunity to renew our spirits and our relationship with God.