Nothing makes you more acutely aware of what you say and how often you say it as having a child who is learning to talk. We often think of this in reference to bad words or phrases that we use that we don’t necessarily want our toddlers repeating. But sometimes it brings to light things aside from the adult language we may or may not use. Sometimes it shows us our instincts through the phrases that we fall back on, for better or worse.
The more my two-year-old daughter’s speech has started to develop, the more I’m realizing how much she is listening and—even more frightening—how much she is remembering and repeating. Some things are cute, some less so. But one phrase that stopped me in my tracks was when, around Christmas time, I told my daughter, “Oh, look at this mess! Time to clean it up!” and she responded by crossing her arms, hanging her head in despair, and wailing, “Oh no! It’s all my fault!”
Now she is only recently starting to put complete sentences together, so you can imagine how a full-fledged, advanced thought about a topic as serious as culpability caught me off guard. But what really surprised me was how much hearing this broke my heart. She then started saying it more and more often, like when she’d fall down or after she’d covered herself in yogurt while eating breakfast. I don’t really know if she was feeling the guilt and shame that an adult would feel when uttering those words, but she sure did know how to act like she did. And that alone was enough to tear my heart right out of my chest.
I asked my husband where she could have picked this little phrase up and he said, “Probably from one of us or maybe Daniel Tiger.”
Then wouldn’t you know it, not a half hour later, my husband started unloading the dishes and I said, “Sorry I didn’t get to that, yet. It’s my fault.”
“That’s where she gets it!” he proclaimed, as if a great mystery had been solved. And I guess it had been, because it was easy to realize then that she’d picked up the phrase from me. But what sounded normal coming from me, sounded completely ludicrous on the lips of a toddler. Even if the mess/fall/accident really was her fault, it sounded so ridiculous for her to take such severe blame for it. I immediately wanted to grab whatever guilt or shame she was feeling and take it away from her.
If I—as a sinful, human mother—am heartbroken seeing my child bear the weight of her actions, how much more does God hate to see us living in guilt and shame? Every day, we fall short of the glory of his plan, we fail to do what is right and instead give in to temptation, and every day God asks for nothing but repentance and gives only grace in return. Yet, even after we are forgiven, how often do we go around with our heads hung low continuing to lament, This is all my fault.?
Sometimes I think it’s easier for us to dwell in the cycle and shame of our sin, than it is to accept forgiveness because then we would have to let it go. And the letting-it-go is what is hard. Forgiving others can be difficult—maybe some days it even feels impossible—but I know that often forgiving yourself is even more challenging. But I can tell you right now, that when I first saw my baby girl’s slumped shoulders and heard her take the blame like that, I did not think twice before falling to me knees, scooping her up, and saying, “Oh, honey, it’s okay. We all make messes sometimes, we can clean it up together. Let me help.”
Maybe you are dwelling in a mess you made and think that you don’t deserve the forgiveness God gives. Maybe you think your mess is too big or too messy for God. Or maybe the mess you are living in isn’t entirely your fault but it’s easier to take all the blame than to forgive yourself and others. But I promise you that God is yearning for you to come to Him. He wants to kneel beside you, scoop you up, and say it’s okay. He wants to clean it up together. He wants to help, but he can’t do that if you don’t accept his forgiveness and forgive yourself.
As I was thinking about writing this blog, the lyrics from this hymn (video at end of post) popped into my head:
Jesus paid it all, all to Him I owe.
Sin had left a crimson stain,
He washed it white as snow.
We are made white as snow. Our sin has been covered. No matter how big, no matter how messy. Forgive yourself and move forward with the goal of aligning your heart and actions with Him. You will fail, but then He will scoop you up again and you can start the whole process over. But don’t continue to distance yourself from Him by refusing His grace and insisting instead on dwelling in your guilt and shame.
He wants you. He wants relationship and harmony with YOU. He aches for you to live freed from the weight of the sin that He has already conquered on your behalf.
So when storms of sin leave you drowning in a mess and all you can think is, it’s all my fault, then go to His side. Let him take you into his arms and shower his forgiveness on you. And then let your guilt go. Jesus paid it all. He’s washed you white as snow.