On the greatest sin…

Today, someone I know and love told me they had committed what they felt like was a terrible sin.  My heart cried for that person.  I write this post – for that dear, wonderful person.

We all have crap.  Everyone has sins, everyone has burdens, everyone has made mistakes.  I mess up ALL THE TIME.  What separates us is not the fact that we have sinned, but the fact that some of us deny the sin.

One of my undergraduate sociology professors once told the story about an abortion clinic.  When a new abortion clinic opened in Wisconsin (soon after Roe vs. Wade), protestors soon started to stand outside the clinic.  One protestor was a middle aged woman – let’s call her Kim – that had a 14-year-old daughter.  Kim would stand outside the clinic and yell profanities at the women and workers who entered and exited the clinic.  The woman who ran the clinic – let’s call her Maggie – came into work one day to find Kim sitting in the lobby with her 14-year-old daughter.  Curious about why she was in the lobby instead of protesting outside, Maggie asked Kim why she was at the clinic.  Kim said “Well, my daughter is only 14.  She is too young to have a child.”

Some days I dream of slapping people like Kim in the face. Who are those people?  They are the people that stand outside of where everyone is at, and just yell and scream.  They are the people that pass judgment upon everyone else, and never turn inward to try to improve themselves.  They are the first people to ask for forgiveness, and the last people to grant it.  They are the people that will yell at women who have abortions, and then be the first in line when their teenage daughter gets pregnant.  What holds me back from slapping people like Kim is an honest confession. The confession is, if we are being truthful to ourselves, we realize that we are all like Kim at one point or another.

For some reason, we like to dream that perfection is attainable.  For example, whenever I hear people talk about Moses they usually discuss how he was a great leader that helped to lead the Israelites to the Promised Land.  Interestingly, when people talk about Moses they tend to leave out a few key things.  Like…. the fact that Moses killed a guy.  Oh, and the fact that after he killed a guy he ran away.  Oh, yes, and the fact that when God asked Moses to confront Pharaoh, Moses was pretty much like “Nope!”

When I was in my earlier twenties, I got to counsel women who had abortions.  I got to ask them about the experience, ask if they were okay, and ask how they were feeling.  The most common thing I heard was “I never thought I would have an abortion.”

If we remove the “abortion” part of the sentence, I think we have a common experience.  There are many times in my life where I can say “I never thought I would….”  For example, I never thought I would be divorced by age 25.  However, at a very young age I found myself on the inside of a very difficult experience.  I felt unloved.  I felt judged.  I felt like a sinner.  I felt like the world – and God – were so disappointed in me.

When we are young, we are blank slates.  We are perfect, unblemished, and clean.  We look around at everyone else and tell ourselves “I will never do this” and “No, that will never be me.”  Despite our best efforts, sometimes, we mess up.  We do something we never thought we would do.   We thought we might always be perfect.

Moses was imperfect.  Despite his imperfections, God loves him and called him to greatness.  Despite killing a man, which is a really crappy thing to do, God planned for Moses to do something incredible.

There will be days and times when we find that we have erred terribly.  On those days, the only thing we can do is ask for forgiveness.  Ask for forgiveness from God.  Ask for forgiveness from anyone we have wronged.  Ask for forgiveness for ourselves.

Then, we must make right what we have wronged.  We must recognize where we screwed up, and try not to screw that up any more.
Next, we must move on.  We cannot go back to the way things are, because things have changed.  All we can do is move forward.
The greatest sin is not murder, or divorce, or abortion.  The greatest sin is pride.  The greatest sin is the day where we stand outside yelling, and never try to come in.  The greatest sin is where we turn to our neighbor in a time of need and say “You are terrible and I am better than you” instead of saying “I too have sinned, but we are loved by God – and we are forgiven.”