I wore a mask yesterday. Back in August, I experienced a bad cold. It never felt like it completely resolved itself. I felt my normal self but sometimes I had a strangely dry throat. When I woke up on Saturday morning with a drippy nose, I thought, “Oh no . . . here we go again.” Perfect timing to be an annoyance for our time together as Q50 and the potluck we enjoyed afterward. If this is the August cold 2.0, then all I can say is, “Wow, this thing can really linger.”
It’s not COVID. I tested negative for that. Whatever it is, I’m tired of having this drippy thing messing with me. Enough already. Enough of the lingering cold.
Sometimes things that linger can be very pleasant. Enjoying a sunset with a campfire, the company of good friends and good food, the final notes of a great song that goes straight to our hearts, a hug from someone we love. These things can never linger long enough. They bring us a lasting sense of contentment and joy. We love that lingering.
Not all lingerings are so enjoyed. Unfortunately, our lingerings can often consist of regret, shame, and fear. Welcome to the human condition. Why do we struggle with this? After all, if we know and believe that God has forgiven us, why can’t we forgive ourselves?
Before you jump into the deep end of the pool of despair, let me clarify that I’m talking about the lingerings of RSF (regrets, shame, fear). If we ask, forgiveness by God is complete, absolute and permanent. We can, like the ancient psalmist, know the joy of sins forgiven. Sometimes, though, the RSF is so deeply ingrained we seem to fight those dragons over and over again. Just when we think they are slain, somehow they stir again. It is an exhausting battle. For some, it is a battle for an entire lifetime. Enough already. Enough of the lingering RSF.
As always, truth is our greatest liberator. The feelings are real. But what we know to be true is greater. When it comes to forgiveness by God, it is hard to beat the eloquence (and reality) of Psalm 103:
and all that is within me, bless his holy name!
Bless the LORD, O my soul,
and forget not all his benefits,
who forgives all your iniquity,
who heals all your diseases,
who redeems your life from the pit,
who crowns you with steadfast love and mercy,
who satisfies you with good
so that your youth is renewed like the eagle's.
The LORD works righteousness and justice for all who are oppressed.
He made known his ways to Moses,
his acts to the people of Israel.
The LORD is merciful and gracious,
slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love.
He will not always chide,
nor will he keep his anger forever.
He does not deal with us according to our sins,
nor repay us according to our iniquities.
For as high as the heavens are above the earth,
so great is his steadfast love toward those who fear him;
as far as the east is from the west,
so far does he remove our transgressions from us.
As a father shows compassion to his children,
so the LORD shows compassion to those who fear him.
For he knows our frame; he remembers that we are dust.
(Psa. 103:1-10 ESV)
If anyone had reason to struggle with lingering RSF, it was the Apostle Paul (he killed members of the Body of Christ), Peter (he betrayed Jesus before the crucifixion), Abraham (he lied about lots of stuff and cheated on his wife), David (another womanizing murder) . . . yet all these, and others, and us, are still able to serve and honour our Creator God. Thankfully, with God there are no second chances - just repeated first ones.
When we find ourselves lingering at the edge of the pool of RSF, we need to turn around and walk away. We need to find refreshment in the high-as-the-heavens love of God, and the east-from-the-west forgiveness He offers. Our Creator knows us and what we need.
It is Monday morning. Let’s begin this week by taking the time to pause and reflect on the significance of Psalm 103. Lingering is a part of life; let’s choose to linger on His grace.