Corrections, Retractions, Forgiveness and the Holy Spirit

I wish that every morning I could easily put out a bulletin of retractions and corrections from the day before.  It would go to family and friends whom I slight, hurt, or irritate (For who can live an hour in real community with someone without travail?). And it would go to strangers with whom I had less than stellar interactions the day before.  If it included things I thought or episodes of eye-rolling or teeth-gritting instead of just words said, it would be pretty lengthy.

But it still would feel good to get it out there each day.  Confession is good for the soul. As is forgiveness, both on the giving and receiving ends.

What if it were as normal each day for us to name our bloopers from the day before as it is in a newspaper, which does list the prior day’s mistakes?  Newspapers do so without hand-wringing or neon signs saying, “I can’t believe we made a mistake.  We hate ourselves” or — on the other extreme — “Who are you, readers, to criticize us?  Do you know how hard it is to get the paper out every day?”

In that spirit, my own correction bulletin would simply be a re-do list, rectifications with no need for a pile of self-loathing dribble, nor even an explanation of all the factors that went into my lapses (“I was tired,” “That’s something I’m sensitive about,” “I was raised by wolves”).

Wouldn’t it be great (and great theology too) if we could simply agree with God about what we have done wrong, not take it more seriously than we need to nor more lightly than we should, state it, accept forgiveness for it, and move on.  And grant others the same reaction over their foibles and gaffes.  I want to live in that world.

I tend to err in two directions. The first is getting into an introspective frenzy that turns me into a mad dog, trying to dig up a long-buried bone that may not even be there any more.  In those times, I feel certain that I need to do my own convicting, rather than leaving that job up to the Holy Spirit who is more than faithful to answer a prayer such as, “Search me, God, and show me my heart.  Test me and know my anxious thoughts.  See if there is any offensive way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting” (Psalm 139:23, 24).

I don’t need to scramble to self-critique; God will reveal what’s needed, nothing more, nothing less.  The apostle Paul said, “I care very little if I am judged by you or by any human court; indeed I do not even judge myself.  I may have a clear conscience but that doesn’t make me innocent.  Indeed it is the Lord who judges me” (1 Corinthians 4:3,4).

The other problem area for me is that I’m sometimes unaware of my own heart’s subconscious grumblings.  I see improvement in this, yes.  And I do hear God’s still small voice over the surface level of things, perhaps an inch or two deep. But beyond that there is layer upon layer of gunk in the subterranean depths of my heart; I don’t readily claim that.  The prophet Jeremiah says, “The heart is deceitful above all things, and beyond cure.  Who can understand it?” (17:9)  Who indeed?

So what gives us the ability to name our messes and not wallow or defend?  I’d say the key is trusting in God and believing that he both loves us deeply and makes provision through the cross for our forgiveness.  In the passage leading up to the statement that our hearts are deceitful, we learn that where we put our trust (in God vs. in man) makes all the difference in how we exist in the world, and I’d add that that relates to our orientation towards confession and absolution (and restitution where needed).  Jeremiah 17 (5-7) says:

“Cursed is the one who trusts in man,

who depends on flesh for his strength

and whose heart turns away from the LORD.

He will be like a bush in the wastelands;

he will not see prosperity when it comes.

He will dwell in the parched places of the desert,

in a salt land where no one lives.


“But blessed is the man who trusts in the LORD,

whose confidence is in him.

He will be like a tree planted by the water

that sends out its roots by the stream.

It does not fear when heat comes;

its leaves are always green.

It has no worries in a year of drought

and never fails to bear fruit.”


What do we want to be… dwellers in the parched places of the desert or fruit-bearers even in a year of drought?  We don’t have to be perfect to live into the latter, only aware of how acceptable it is to not be perfect.

Bring on the correction bulletin.  Me and The Washington Post.

~ by Cary on December 2, 2010.

One Response to “Corrections, Retractions, Forgiveness and the Holy Spirit”

  1. […] via Corrections, Retractions, Forgiveness and the Holy Spirit « Holy Vernacular. […]

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