By: Kristin Hauser, Sophomore
Given at Connections: A First Year Gathering (08.23.14)
So, you know that “ah-ha!” moment that a lot of people have when they finally kind of “get” life? Well, mine happened in 8th grade just around the time I was about ready to be confirmed. Now, I’ll spare you the details because it’s kind of a weird story, but what’s actually important to know is the result of this conversion moment. Because, you see, after this point I was totally on fire for God. I can’t even explain it, but all I wanted was to be closer to Him and so that yearning that I had in me gave me such a heart for service. I wanted to work at every soup kitchen, feed every homeless person, and donate to every one of those commercials with the little kids that you see on TV. And honestly, I pretty much did. Throughout high school I managed to go on 11 different mission trips, racking up countless hours of service in my own community and all over the country.
But here’s the thing: it was never good enough. No matter how much I served or did or tried to do, I could never do everything. I mean, nobody can. But that’s not what I told myself. Because I had it in my head that the way I proved I loved God was by doing (and succeeding) at the things I did for Him. Well, that didn’t work out so well because I’m human and so I mess up all the time. And every time I would try so hard to take that to the Lord in reconciliation and every time, I just kept making the same mistakes over and over again. I just kept failing over and over and over and I couldn’t figure out why until one day, I was reading in the book of Matthew. And in the gospel Jesus says that we’re supposed to love our neighbors as ourselves. And I’m thinking, “okay, I love my neighbor.” but then the as yourself part kind of jumps out at me. So I read it again, “love your neighbor as yourself.” It was in that moment that I think I realized I have to know my own worth before I can even begin to understand how to respect someone else’s. All those good things that I was doing were great, but they didn’t define me. And all the times that I messed up, that I turned away from God and turned towards sin, well those instances didn’t define me either, but I was totally living as if they did. I kept making the same mistakes over and over again because I thought that those mistakes were who I was. And even though I knew God forgave me every time, I couldn’t forgive myself enough to accept His mercy and work for change in my life.
Forgiving others is so incredibly important, but the struggle that’s always been on my heart in regard to reconciliation is forgiving myself. It’s always been a fight and I know that it probably always will be, but I think the take-away point and the thing that I learn out of all of this. All of these unrealistic expectations and over-commitment and days of anxiety and guilt, I think what I learned is that when we sin, when we mess up and we think that there is no reason for God to ever take us back (but He does, because He’s awesome and beautiful and merciful and loves us ridiculously), instead of dwelling on our mistakes, instead of laying on the ground and wallowing in how dumb we are, we get up. We get up and we run towards Christ. And let’s face it, we’re going to fall again. We’re going to mess up sometimes, but the hope and the redemption in the story is that God will always take us back, if we let Him. So my encouragement to you today is simply that: to get up. To get up from wherever you are and simply seek the Lord today. Because our worth is not in what we say or what we do or what we don’t do: our worth is in Him, and He will always take us back if we let Him.