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Forgiving Myself

As I lie awake in my bed after everyone else in my house has gone to sleep, my mind replays my failings like a horrifying highlight reel.

How I lost my temper with my children again.

The impatience threaded through a conversation with a friend.

The devastation on my husband’s face when my sharp words cut him down.

My grief over what I’ve done blossoms into shame, convincing me that change is impossible. The shame is amplified by bitterness, and before I know it, I have welcomed dangerous lies and doubted the gospel. My head may nod enthusiastically over Jesus’s words to forgive my offender seventy times seven, but what about when the offender is me?

I don’t think I’m alone. Longtime followers of Christ are intimately familiar with the command to forgive. But when the struggle is internal, maybe you, like me, consider it almost virtuous to punish yourself harshly and deny yourself any eligibility for grace.

Why is it so hard to forgive ourselves?

In my years-long internal battle with self-resentment, I’ve identified three major obstacles along the way:

1. Pride

As a natural people-pleaser, I appreciate high standards and the accolades thrown my way when I’ve reached them. It feels good to pretend I can be righteous and good — until it doesn’t work. Pride can make me delusional about my own propensity to sin. Pride strives to patch over mistakes, pretending they never happened. Pride tells me I should’ve done better — tried harder. But Scripture says that I can’t work hard enough, that I can’t achieve perfection on my own. God isn’t surprised or shaken at my unholiness. He knows all his children need discipline and training. Instead of burying my sin deep enough to maintain my image, humbly admitting my sin before the Lord is the first step toward forgiving myself.

2. Doubt

In the Garden of Eden, we see the serpent’s first tactic as he sweet-talked Eve and Adam, weaving threads of doubt into their view of God. The Enemy is always the first to remind me of my moral failures and the first to suggest that God might not be who I’ve believed him to be. He whispers lies that tell me God didn’t really make me righteous, I can’t really be loved enough, God doesn’t really keep his promise to forgive. But we can learn to discern his hissing amidst our thoughts. Just as Jesus used Scripture to combat all of Satan’s lies in the desert, our only defense is to plant ourselves in the Bible and stand firm on God’s promises.

3. Shame

If I allow pride and doubt to fester in me, they will swing wide the door for shame. When fear of exposure controls me and God’s love seems distant, I begin to believe that there is no escape from my sin. Shame wraps its victim in the label of their wrongs. It distracts me from God’s presence, disrupts my relationships, and discourages my efforts toward spiritual maturity. But the truth of my identity in Christ can overcome the trap of shame. I love the lyrics to the song “You Are More” by Tenth Avenue North:

You are more than the choices that you made,

you are more than the sum of your past mistakes,

you are more than the problems you create,

you’ve been remade.

Because Christ has made us new creations, we are not defined by our sins. I have victory over shame because I am a child of God, a recipient of his great mercy without earning any of it, and my sin was nailed to the cross.

And you, who were dead in your trespasses and the uncircumcision of your flesh, God made alive together with him, having forgiven us all our trespasses by canceling the record of debt that stood against us with its legal demands. This he set aside, nailing it to the cross.

Colossians 2:13-14

I don’t have to keep looking back on my past sins. I don’t have to be anxious about future struggles. Freedom from shame’s snare allows me to be honest about my failures before the Lord. I don’t have to hide or justify my sin, instead humbly approaching him for forgiveness. And when we ask God to forgive us, we can be sure that he does and that his forgiveness is final.

In his death and resurrection, Jesus conquered the entirety of sin. When we are forgiven, our sin no longer hangs over us. Our souls don’t wallow in a place of guilt, for he has defeated pride, doubt, and shame. What a gift! What love! Why would we continue to carry the burden of blame when God has removed all blame from us?

When I rehearse the truth that I am a child of God, his beloved treasure for whom he died, then my heart can confess my failures to my Father, trust his promises, and rest in his grace.

Blackout

If you’ve ever experienced a power outage at your house then you know one of the craziest things about losing power is the realization of how dependent we are on electricity for everything. Not the least of which is light. It’s not until the power goes out that you realize how dark the darkness is. The lights go out, and there you are standing in a dark room barely able to see in front of you until something — an iPhone flashlight, a candle, a fireplace — provides at least a small amount of light to bring vision and clarity to the darkness.

Back in March of 2020, just as the world was beginning to shut down due to the worldwide explosion of COVID-19, my wife and I received some news. Our 5-year-old son, Maverick, full of life, light, and imaginative creativity had been having some serious headaches. These headaches were hitting him up to three times per day and dampening his ability to live his life the way a kid should.

So, just to rule out any potential for something serious, we took him to get an MRI. Migraines run in my wife’s family, so we were certain he was having cluster headaches.

However, this phone call from the imaging department at Texas Children’s Hospital informed us of a massive cyst on our little boy’s brain. It was causing pressure and pain to his ventricles and it was the sources of his often debilitating headaches.

For my wife and I, the lights went out. It went dark. Our little boy would most likely need brain surgery.

I still remember getting that phone call. I dropped what I was doing and ran into my son’s room. I sprawled out face down on his bedroom floor and just began to cry out to God. There’s not much to say in those moments; just a desperate combination of “why’s?” and pleas.

How could this happen?

What would happen?

Why would God allow this?

What would God do next?

The next few weeks went by slowly as we anxiously awaited the course of action. Sure enough, the surgeon wanted to operate as soon as possible. We were terrified. Anxiety, fear, depression, and every other emotion of that kind flooded through us like a rising tide. Our two younger girls  both had majorly concerning health issues either in the womb or in the first few days of their lives, but Maverick was supposed to be our healthy kid. He was our easy kid, and he was the light of our lives.

We honestly didn’t know what to do, and we were paralyzed with the fear of what the future might hold.

We begged God for grace.

We confessed our fear to him, acknowledged our doubts, and cried out for his protection over our little boy.

Just when it seemed darkest, a prayer, an encouraging word, or a meal from a friend would shine a light in the darkness. Over the next few weeks our lives were flooded with the light of these gifts from our family and friends reaching out to us.

The blackout was being illuminated.

Don’t get me wrong, it was still dark. Our power had gone out of us. But we could see a few steps in front of us, we could see each other’s faces, and even though there was an isolating, global pandemic raging across our planet, we could see the faces of our family and friends through their acts of extreme sacrifice and generosity.

Eventually, my son underwent brain surgery and it was one of the scariest days of our lives. I don’t think anything could have prepared us for this kind of fear. It was a different kind of pain. In addition to visions and dreams of the future being stolen, it felt like we already missed him even though he was still with us. We begged God for grace.

When Maverick came home from the hospital, our front yard showcased the most elaborate “welcome home” sign display I had ever seen. There were balloons and gifts as far as the eye could see.

He had had a really hard night in the hospital, and a really confusing day, but those signs brought a smile to our little boy’s face.

For weeks people brought meals, gifts, cards, and toys to the point where Maverick began to think we had a magical door. Every time he opened it there was something else left on our front porch for him.

The darkness was lighting up.

It’s now been over a year since Maverick’s surgery. However, late in 2020 his headaches which had subsided considerably returned to almost the same degree of frequency and intensity. We feared the worst. The light started to flicker.

Would we have to go through all of this again?

We prayed. We cried. And we reached out for our flashlights. Our friends and family again covered us in prayer, brought us a meal on a hard day, and supported us through the unknown.

I think sometimes we can get angry with God for the way he answers prayer. When he doesn’t heal, when he doesn’t save, or when he doesn’t take the pain away, but my wife and I are slowly beginning to understand that these too are answers to our prayers.

Maybe the power isn’t coming back on just yet, but he’s giving us grace to see even in the darkness. He is giving us grace to see the purpose in the pain.

After the latest MRI, we discovered that Maverick’s cyst had completely decompressed, and his surgical team felt it wasn’t necessary to do any further operations at this time.

Do we have all the answers?

No.

But we have a room full of light at this point, and a faithful God we know we can trust whatever we face.


 

CCStories

Whole Life Generosity — The Ravedutti Story

The Raveditti’s graciously opened the doors of their own business for the work of ministry.

The Travis & Cari Hicks Orphan Care Story

“God has gifted us each 24 hours in a day and we have a choice in how we spend it.

We knew going in to this that our schedules stay pretty packed, but what are they packed with? Are we aiming to glorify God with all of the time He has given us?

He made it clear to us that if we could make time for all of the other great things in our life, we could surely make time to care for the orphan – for HIS orphans.” – The Hicks

 

 

The Aaron Suhre Story

“We’re just this small story in the greater, bigger story of what God is doing. These are some things God has done in this life for his greater good.”   – Aaron Suhre

 

The Chuck Claunch Story

Chuck deciding to volunteer with the database team that later became the IT team served as the catalyst for Chuck in growing in his faith and commitment to Jesus and his mission.

He has since joined a small group, taken multiple classes at Clear Creek, and worked on dozens of tech projects at the church.

The Amy Swift Story

Amy Swift and her husband, Chris, moved to Louisiana from Texas, about a year after they were married. It was supposed to be a short-term move, but it turned into five years. And it was a long, lonely five years for Amy.

The Swifts just had their first baby, she was living in a new city where she knew no one and Chris traveled a lot for work. Which meant Amy was home with the baby most days, and she began to feel the crushing weight of isolation, separation and eventually depression.

She was tired, frustrated, anxious, and alone.

Chris & Amy thought getting back to Texas might fix everything… Texas is awesome, but Amy’s dark season wasn’t over when they moved back.

But I want you to hear how God used HIS PEOPLE to bring peace in Amy’s life. How through his people she experienced the presence of God.

Take a listen.

The Gilbert George Story

Gilbert George prayed to receive Christ in the summer of 1962 when he was 10 years old.

Now at 69 years old, Gil has been attending Clear Creek Community Church for just over a year. He’s a member of a men’s small group and has started serving on the Prayer Team at Egret Bay.

But there’s something you should know about Gil. He is visually impaired.

For over a decade he’s lived without sight.

But that hasn’t prevented him from wanting to grow. Although he’s been on the journey of following Christ for a long time, Gil knows he’s still only scratched the surface of who God is and how he loves.

So, each week on an alternating schedule, one of the guys drives to Gil’s home and brings him to small group. And to further include him, they even recorded a special audio version of Clear Creek’s Missional Community small group study, so Gil could study the material and participate in the discussion.

Gil’s impairment also hasn’t prevented him from wanting to serve others. Although he loves to meet new people, Gil knows he doesn’t need his eyes to pray for them. Ears to hear, a hand to hold, and a voice to speak to God are his tools of ministry.

And so each week, when he is scheduled to serve, a guy from his small group drives to Gil’s home and brings him to church so he can passionately pray for people who are hurting and need encouragement.

Growing together to stir up affections for the Lord and caring for one another in order to serve others — this is what authentic gospel community looks like.

And even if Gilbert George can’t see it all for himself, he knows it deeper still.

“For as in one body we have many members, and the members do not all have the same function, so we, though many, are one body in Christ, and individually members one of another. Having gifts that differ according to the grace given to us, let us use them…” Romans 12:4-6a

Bay Area Turning Point

“It’s a really neat opportunity to grow spiritually, to step out of that comfort zone, and to bring a little bit of joy, and share Jesus with people that are hurting today.” – Gina Holstein

 

Learn more about Bay Area Turning Point and how you can help make a difference at https://www.bayareaturningpoint.org/

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New Life: How Adoption Changed Everything

“I can see the life I was born into, but not the life that I was destined to live. God definitely had a plan for me…”

Want to learn more about fostering and/or adopting? Visit clearcreek.org

Reading the Bible Together

“I had tried to read the Bible on my own… but once I was in the group doing it together there was a lot more accountability.

Each week different perspectives come in to play, too. There’s lots of different views and points of view in our small group, which is awesome because then you hear other people’s interpretations on things.”

Being the Church

As far as Josh Fasske knew, it was going to be another long and cold work night driving around the greater League City area.

The last few days had passed like a whirlwind for him and his wife, Brittani, owners of Grand Slam Plumbing, a small business they started in 2017. As Winter Storm Uri wreaked havoc in League City, Josh and his small crew worked long days and nights and even into the early hours of the morning to restore running water to their customers.

They were already slammed just a few days into the storm, and Josh was exhausted physically and mentally. Not only was he working around the clock to help panicked customers, but he and his wife and young children were displaced from their apartment as their building went without electricity and running water.

It was on such a night the week of the storm that Josh received a welcome surprise from fellow church member, Vijay Rajaji.

“I was at a job in Seabrook,” Josh recalled. “When Vijay got there, he sent me a text that said ‘Hey, come outside.’ I saw it and thought he sent it to the wrong person, so I called him. He said ‘Hey, come outside. I’ve got something for you.’”

Vijay had brought Josh food.

“Not just food,” Josh said, “it was a warm meal, which I wasn’t getting a whole lot of.”

Before Vijay left, he told Josh, “If you’re out and about, I’m going to be out and about. However long you’re doing this, I’m going to be bringing you food every night.”

And Vijay kept his promise.

 

***

 

Years ago, Sonia and Vijay Rajaji experienced one of the most traumatic events of their lives. Their first child, Maya, was born premature, just shy of 26 weeks gestation. She spent the next three-and-a-half months in the NICU and the remainder of her first year at home under strict guidelines in order to avoid any communicable illnesses.

Sonia and Vijay were fairly new believers attending Clear Creek Community Church. Neither had been raised in families that invited other people into their personal lives, but this new church life was challenging all that they understood about community. For five months, the people of Clear Creek — a few friends, but mostly strangers — brought meals to the Rajajis three times a week in order to serve them and help them get through that tough season.

“I thought we didn’t need it,” Sonia recalled. “I didn’t understand how meals help. After I came out of that season and out of the shock, I realized this is what church family is all about. This is about serving people even when they don’t think they need it. And it’s hard to take help.”

“That was the thing that really changed me,” Vijay added. “When you’re a new believer, you pick up everything by osmosis. You say what people say, you do what people do, and you think that’s the baseline. And so, because we were so new, my expectation became if you’re going through something, the church takes care of you, period. That’s just the expectation.”

Maya thrived, and Sonia and Vijay continued growing in their faith at Clear Creek. Later, they took the Financial Peace University course in order to gain a better understanding of how to get out of debt as well as how to honor God with their financial resources.

“One of the things that came out of that for us was creating a line item in our budget for generosity,” Sonia said.  “When we have it in our budget, it gives us freedom to be generous. God has given us all this financial security. So, part of our responsibility as believers is to show people his love.”

As the years have passed, the Rajajis have given help to many church members and those outside the church in an effort to show God’s love. They’ve also received help many times from their church family and have had to learn over and over again to accept help.

“We just make people take our help,” she laughed. “We [have been] served so well that we can’t say ‘no’ to people when they say, ‘Can we help you?’”

The week of the winter storm, Sonia had been praying specifically for a way to serve someone “over the course of time.” When she saw a Facebook post Brittani Fasske made one late night about delivering dinner to her husband who was out repairing customer’s pipes, she knew God was leading them to serve the Fasskes in a specific way.

“A lot of times people don’t know what they need,” Sonia said. She and Vijay had known the Fasskes as acquaintances through church, having served together at different times through the years. She knew they had two young children, they ran their business from home, that they were currently displaced from their home and normal routine, and she saw that Josh was working a crazy amount of hours doing a very necessary job in a moment of crisis. Their need became clear.

“We can work this into our schedule easily,” she realized. “We can do this as long as we need to because he needs to eat!”

Vijay was totally on board.

 

***

 

Brittani excitedly answered the phone when her husband called that night. She knew Vijay would have delivered the meal by now, as she had secretly helped by giving Vijay the address where Josh was working that night.

“I could tell he was emotional so that made me emotional,” she said.

“It just made me feel pretty special and important that they would take time out of their day to bring me food, which seems like something pretty small,” Josh said. “But when you’re working that much and not seeing your family, it’s actually something really huge. It really made me feel loved and taken care of.”

Josh also expressed the importance of being appreciated for his hard work in an extreme season.

“A lot of times, working a lot of hours and irregular days in plumbing just seems normal,” Josh said. “Plumbing problems happen all the time, so it really becomes a normal thing that people don’t really think about. But when a natural disaster happens, long hours really get pushed to the extreme. A lot of times it goes unnoticed. But for somebody to realize, He’s away from his family. He’s not getting a good meal at night. For them to see that need and come running to help me out was really cool.”

The friends took notice.

“They said, ‘That’s the kind of church I want to be part of. That’s the kind of love a church should show to their church family,’” recalled Brittani.

Once over the course of serving Josh, Vijay and his son, Samir, were able to also take a meal to one of Josh’s employees who was on a job with him. The man was dumbfounded by Vijay’s generosity.

“Seeing him ask questions like Why are you doing this for me? was so awesome,” Vijay recalled. “I have been praying that I will get to see him at church someday, his life changed.”

And it was not lost on Vijay that his son got to witness the exchange.

“We hope that by the way we live our lives our children see how you love people,” said Vijay.

“Being the church” was a theme that had the greatest impact on Josh during his chaotic work season.

“We want people to see the difference of a church that takes care of each other… and helps any way they can,” Josh said. “The people don’t just go to church; they go out and they are the church.”

“When a community is in need, our church and community steps up,” Brittani added. “It’s just like This isn’t a burden for us. This is my way to serve you. And they do it with an open heart and open mind. I always feel proud to be part of our community and our church.”

 

***

 

Sonia and Vijay continued to serve the Fasske family for another two months. Both families made it clear that serving is not just about being on the giving or receiving end — everyone benefits from service and generosity because it is simply an expression of God’s abundant love for his people.

“At first I thought I didn’t want to inconvenience anybody from taking time out of their day, even though it was a nice thought,” said Josh. “But I remembered back to when we were in a small group with Aaron Lutz. He once said, ‘You don’t want to take away somebody’s opportunity to serve you because it might be a next step of growth for them.’”

That “next step of growth” can be something life-changing or just another small way that God molds us further into the likeness of Christ – the one who has served us most generously. Sonia emphasized the importance of serving as a way to take the focus off ourselves to see others more clearly, the way God sees us.

“When we are serving others,” Sonia said, “it helps us grow in our devotion to God. This is one of the things we can do to try to diminish our selfishness and serve somebody else without expecting anything in return.”