Rich Maffeo is one of my favorite Christian authors. He blogs over at The Contemplative Catholic Convert. I found a lot of spiritual wisdom in his well-written, inspiring blog post today and asked his permission to reprint it here.
Here’s the blog in its entirety:
I published this essay in my book, Lessons Along the Journey. I re-posted it to my blog about a year ago. The incident below occurred decades ago, but from time to time I talk with people who, like Robert, cannot (or choose not to) believe God’s great love and forgiveness could be directed toward them. To everyone else, yes. But not to and for them. After a more recent conversation along these lines, I thought to re-post this again. There are still many Christians who need the reminder.
I think that if God forgives us, we must forgive ourselves. Otherwise, it is almost like setting up ourselves as higher tribunal than Him. — C. S. Lewis
MY VERY OWN FRANKENSTEIN MONSTER
The shadowy figure darted behind a tombstone and peered steadily into the darkness. When he was satisfied no one had spotted him, he thrust his shovel into the fresh grave — again and again. Soon, his spade thudded against the casket. A few minutes later, he lifted the corpse onto his shoulders and grunted.
Dr. Frankenstein would be pleased.
I’m surprised I still remember the 1950s horror film. Dr. Frankenstein zapped the cadaver with a bolt of electricity and brought the dead back to life. Unfortunately, the monster ended up terrorizing the countryside.
Have you noticed how our culture seems preoccupied with death? Surf the TV most evenings or browse the sci-fi section in online streaming sites. The titles may surprise you. Even some Christians seem preoccupied with restoring life to things that ought to stay dead.
Robert is a good example. He has a bad habit of digging around in graveyards — mostly his. He called me some time ago in a state of depression, “How can God forgive me?” he pleaded. “You don’t know what I’ve done.”
That was not the first conversation I’d had with him over the same theme. I’ve lost count of the times Robert has called for assurance of God’s forgiveness. And each time I remind him of Scripture’s promises, he responds with his characteristic, “Yes, but.”
As he spoke, a mental image of the Frankenstein monster formed as Robert again dug up his past — a past covered by Christ’s blood. I watched him piece together one old sin after another, assembling them into a monster that terrorized him and his family.
This time, though, I could not find fault only with my friend’s needless despair. With seamless precision, my thoughts propelled me toward my own graveyard where “Yes, but” is etched on several tombstones.
Like Robert, I know Scriptures that assure me of God’s forgiveness. So why do I dig around in my past, piecing together my own monster? Why do I permit the creature that Christ put to death be resurrected and wreak havoc on my life and hurt my relationship with God and with others?
I know why. Sometimes I doubt our Father’s trustworthiness. I am skeptical that Christ’s sacrificial death could cover my despicable sins. So, I revive my past, lifting each sin onto my shoulders as if to say, “Lord, if you really knew what I’ve done, you would never forgive me.”
On the other end of the line, Robert’s litany of reasons why God was angry with him gained momentum. With each passing thought, he dug himself deeper into the Yes, but pit until I couldn’t take anymore.
“Robert,” I interrupted.
He stopped talking and I reminded him again — myself as well — of the promises which stand more sure than Earth itself, of promises more secure than any anchor, of promises that transcend all of our “Yes, buts”:
“So whoever is in Christ is a new creation: the old things have passed away; behold, new things have come” (2 Corinthians 5:17). “[Therefore], now there is no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus” (Romans 8:1). “I have been crucified with Christ; and it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me” (Galatians 2:20).
Scripture after Scripture, promise after promise swirled though my mind and slipped across my tongue. I don’t know if they helped Robert, but I know they helped me to once again place my monster back into the crypt. By God’s grace, I will leave it there. Life is too short, and the laborers too few, to waste time and energy carrying a dead man around on my shoulders.
God says to the penitent: Forgiven. Satan whispers: Guilty.
Whom will we believe?