Archive for February, 2011

Hitting Curveballs

I like to be prepared. Although I have been leading Bible studies in lock-up facilities for many years, I still don’t like winging things. I like to know where I’m headed and how to get there.  When I have a well thought out lesson plan I plan on sticking to it. But there are times when sticking to the plan is not the right thing to do.

Last week I prepared a Bible study lesson on three keys to living a successful Christian life. Two boys showed up, both first-timers. After the three of us introduced ourselves, Darren* shot a glance at the kid across the table, “Should I…?” he asked. The other boy hesitated, shaking his head, “Uh, I don’t know. Maybe.” I didn’t know what was coming. Then Darren showed me his forearm.  He had half a dozen slashes from elbow to wrist. The blood had dried hours ago but the evidence of his self-mutilation was obvious. “I used a pen until the staff took all my pens away. Then I used my fingernail.”

In that moment in was clear that chucking my lesson plan was the right thing to do. This young man had had a tough week, to say the least. Not having developed the coping skills needed to process the stress in his life, he cut himself. Kids sometimes share that they have become so desensitized to life that they cut in order that they might feel. I knew that Darren wouldn’t have volunteered that information unless he wanted to talk about it.  The staff already knew but he wanted to get some feedback from one of the “church people.”

When you get a curveball like this it is hard to know in the moment what direction to take the conversation. It was clear from what Darren shared that he regretted cutting himself and that his actions left him full of guilt and shame. While I couldn’t relate to his experience directly, having never self-mutilated, I could relate to feelings of guilt, condemnation, and shame. Every time I sin I feel these to a certain extent. And when I do, I feel unworthy of God’s love, grace, and forgiveness. Thankfully this is not how God wants me to feel. And that is the message I shared with Darren.

We are not to wallow in guilt. “A righteous man falls seven times, but rises again” (Proverbs 24:16). We are not to condemn ourselves, for God doesn’t condemn us. “There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus” (Romans 8:1). What we are to do is confess our sins to God and He will forgive us according to His faithfulness and justice (1 John 1:9), even cleansing us from a guilty conscience (Hebrews 9:14).

What a Wonderful Savior!

*name changed

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February 8, 2011 at 3:36 pm Leave a comment


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