Forgiven in the Undertow

Therefore let all the faithful pray to you
    while you may be found;
surely the rising of the mighty waters
    will not reach them.
You are my hiding place;
    you will protect me from trouble
    and surround me with songs of deliverance.

Psalm 32:6-7

For many, these months in pandemic have fostered a time of surprise reflection. Even as a person who reflects every minute of a normal day, it’s really just intensified all my natural tendencies. Now, my thinking even more so directs the substance of my day. Sour thoughts poison the day, while resilient ones save it. (Unless, of course, circumstances have an unwelcome or welcome effect beyond my state of mind. And really, the toll of this pandemic is always something that must be accounted for.)

Reflection means you can be anywhere, no matter where your body is–time and space at the mercy of your neurons. Unfortunately, this can be pretty dangerous, especially when you think of one bad thing and another and another. It’s overwhelming. It’s a total spiral. I hate it.

I’ve been thinking about one particular spiral lately, and that’s the one of guilt. The one where you think of all the moments you didn’t do enough, or you did too much. The ones that crush you, the ones that make you cringe. Maybe you weren’t the worst or maybe you were. Either way, it kills you to think about it.

Even more specifically, I’ve been thinking about how hard it is to deal with those spirals of guilt when you’re not feeling so close to God. As the Psalm above says, let all the faithful pray, and God will keep your head above water. What happens when your head is already submerged, when you don’t feel like you’ve been good enough to receive God’s grace, when you feel bad for obviously not factoring in the meaning of grace, which is receiving good you don’t deserve–what happens?

I just wanted to say that just because your head is underwater, just because the currents seem to be pulling you in deeper, and just because you don’t feel forgiven, it doesn’t mean that you aren’t forgiven. Friend, God’s mercy doesn’t rely on your feelings or your behavior. Things don’t need to seem right or be right for God to rectify them.

In fact, things need to be bad for God to rectify them. They need to be wrong. Sometimes they need to be so wrong that no human–not you, not me–can fix them. Only God can.

I’ve been trying to challenge myself lately, that the worse things are, the more room there is for a miracle. (That the worse I am, the more room there is for a miracle!) But I don’t want to feel entitled to God’s help. And yes, while it’s true that I am not entitled to it, it is still an act of worship to put my trust in God’s goodness. To understand that maybe it won’t look like how I want it to, that sometimes it won’t feel like enough, but the worship matters all the same.

Though disappointment will come, worship will stay. It’s not about me anyway. Whether in the undertow or on solid ground, it’s about the God who forgives me, the God who I worship–not the one who just can’t seem to feel forgiveness, or the one who’s trying hard to worship but just can’t get her heart to embrace it.

In a way, not accepting forgiveness makes it about us. But we must make it about God.

And in turn, somehow, God will reward us. Somehow, He will say, “Well done, good and faithful servant.” Somehow. Our heads will emerge from the undertow. I don’t know what we will be left with, but we will be given more from somewhere, somehow. It’ll be out of His grace anyway.

Until the day, we are forgiven in the undertow.

And without faith it is impossible to please God, because anyone who comes to him must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who earnestly seek him.

Hebrews 11:6

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