Psalm 69 “O God, you know my foolishness, and my faults are not hidden from you.”
One of the Native Youth with whom I work has just moved out of state for a job. He chats with me on line. “Everything is really good. I like it here and I have already saved money for a car. It is going so great.”
It was an upbeat conversation and we ended by saying the usual “later.” Before I could sign off, he sends another message.
“There is one thing I am worried about,” he writes. “I am praying that everything continues to go well. What I am afraid of is that some of the things I’ve done in the past are going to kick me in the face. I’m afraid that one day will be payback time from God and everything will come crashing down.”
Thankful that I had time to think before I respond, I finally write down, “God already knows all about it. He doesn’t do payback time. You are his beloved child. Even if you have some hidden stuff you think no one knows about, Grandfather God knows and cherishes you anyway. He doesn’t do revenge. The way it works is that when we face up to all our foolishness, God’s forgiveness is a done deal. Until then, we are totally loved as we are, regardless of how much we mess up or run away.”
After we disconnect, I look at the four basic faith issues that keep coming up in this youth ministry. This is the story out of which these at risk youth make decisions. “I can’t have value because I am basically a bad person who has been in trouble all my life. Life can’t be good because I can’t trust anything that happens to me to be without pitfalls. My past cannot be forgiven because guilt and shame weighs me down. My future is closed because I can’t trust that good change is possible.” This is the story for those who have been crushed by indifference, by curtailed promises, by reprisal, and by contempt.
Since they have been interacting with the Church, that destructive story has been eroding along with the behaviors that go with it.
Sometimes they have had a brief moment in which they realize that they are truly children of a forgiving God and start to make choices in reference to that moment. And when that happens, even if they, like all of us, start to slip back into old behaviors… When that happens, they and we are healed.