I grew up in a devout Catholic family. We attended weekly mass, participated in the sacraments, and my working-class parents did what they needed to do to send all ten of us to Catholic school. My parents did their part for sure, but I didn’t really do mine. After going all the way through I can honestly say I didn’t really learn much about my religion except for the “Thou shalt nots.”
It seemed like there were many “Thou shalt nots…” in our religion. So many, in fact, that by the time I was 8 years old I was certain that I was going to hell because I had done too many things that I was told I was not to do and had not done enough things that I was told to do, according to our religion.
I couldn’t keep up so I ended up giving up.
Today I am a married woman and I have learned a few things along my journey of life and faith. One really important thing I’ve learned is about God’s forgiveness.
I have done things that are unloving to my husband. I inevitably feel bad about it and often I will stew over it for a while. Eventually, I’ll say something, or do something, to say I’m sorry for the hurtful thing I had done. When my husband forgives me, I’m always relieved because the tension in the household is removed and we can look at each other again with love. I don’t like that feeling of disconnect from him. I want us to be good and enjoy each other. His forgiveness makes that happen.
As I was growing up in my religious home, and for the longest time even after I returned to faith in Jesus, I understood forgiveness to be like an entrance ticket. Once I obtained it, I’d have met the criteria and the box could be checked. With the box checked, I could enter into the Kingdom of Heaven.
What I never considered was the true end goal: being with God.
I’ve come to realize that God’s forgiveness makes it possible for me to be reconnected to Him, in much the same way as with my husband. Yes, I do get to enter the Kingdom of Heaven but not as one who has to hope that He’s not still upset with me. His forgiveness allows me to be relieved because the tension is removed. I can sit with God and enjoy Him. We can look at each other with love and be good again.
I’m so thankful to finally get that.
God just wants a love relationship with me and He wants it so bad that He did the most loving thing He could do in order to get me back. He sent his Son Jesus to die so that I could be forgiven and we could be together again. The greatest act of love the world has ever known is what Jesus did on that cross.