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Jen Pollock Michel

( author + writer + speaker )

Anatomy of an Apology: The Business of Atonement

Kiernan and Wendy Stringer lead the discipleship ministry at our church, Grace Toronto. They're humble, authentic, and have loved Jesus through joy and loss. They are just the kind of people you want leading you - and the kind of people you want as friends. Wendy is my friend - and confidant. When we traveled together last winter for a writing retreat, I told her my entire life's repertoire of stories. Every. single. one. And she still likes me, which I take to mean that she, like Jesus, is full of forgiving grace. Wendy is a writer and speaker. (Shhh, but it's been months that I've been asking her to blog.) She's passionate about the gospel, and she's writing here this week about apologies. Because you're all super fantastic readers, consider leaving a comment: what spoke to you? rang true? nudged you towards God or simply closer to yourself? I know that would encourage Wendy. (Heck, if you want to also mention that she should be blogging, that would be completely up to you of course.)

Thanks in advance, friends. And if you'd like to contact Wendy, email me, and I'll make the connection.

* * * * *

Thanks for sticking around this week. Here's where we've been so far.

The Naked Truth: "There's something about an apology, about owning my crap, that just feels bad."

Saying I'm Sorry: "Sorry isn't good enough. Name it. Be specific. Hold no punches."

Mr. Deepwaters and Ms. Pushy Lass: "'Is there anything that I've missed or anything that you want to say to me?' I mentally sew my mouth shut while he answers."

The truth is owning my sin is about way more than just making that guy of mine like me again. It's about remaining in the truthfulness of who I am, what I've done, who Kiernan is and how he needs better. It gets me out of myself and into relationship, no more hiding or pretense.

This relationship matters too much and letting it slide or defending myself will not make me feel like everything's fine. My sin won't just go away if we both agree to act like it never happened.

The mess of it will fester if left to itself.

But even if I remember all these lessons (I rarely do) and I try my very best to make them work (again, rare) it guarantees nothing.

Learning from these lessons and following my own advice can not make everything ok. Everything is not ok.

Which reminds me of my second lesson and brings me to the seventh:

Seventh lesson, ask Jesus, the only one who could atone for this sin I've committed against my guy, and the only one who can make it right, to heal the wounds that I've inflicted. Preferably ask it out loud so my loved one can hear.

This is where hope comes. There are times when I have done or said something and I know, I went way too far this time. Not only is forgiveness unlikely but I could never make him well again, not after what I've done.

And at that point, I tend to despair.

But here is where the truth of the gospel touches down into my reality. Not only will I be forgiven for my sin against my guy, not only is it wiped away as though I never did anything wrong and only ever did what is right, but I can trust this same God to work my horrible sin, for good, in my guy's life. This is a lesson I'm still trying to learn.

 Nothing can separate Kiernan from the love of his Father, not even my wretchedness.

What if God uses even our messed up stuff for His plans? What if He takes the terrible things we do and the terrible things done to us and gives them meaning and purpose that transcends the ugliness and brokenness of it all? What if He was doing something beautiful while I was sinning?

What if, for my guy, somehow, God used my sin to make him whole?

The One who takes my worst sins against my loved guy and uses them to make him into the image of Christ. The One who will use the wrong things Kiernan endures at my hand to shape him for something life giving, transformative, God glorifying.

And I'm not trying to get out of anything here.

This is not me signing a permission form for myself so I can sin against others, but it is a comfort. When I know I can never make my sin right again, but Jesus will, I am comforted. All is not lost. I screwed up, but because of Jesus all is not lost.

Our sins against the one's we love highlights our inabilities, our flaws and our desperate condition. Though we bumble as we try to get an apology out, as we sob uncontrollably with snot and tears running down our faces, when we wrestle hard to talk about it honestly, we find that at some point, somehow, Jesus has brought us to the foot of the cross, and our whole aching self cries out: "Lord, who else can I go to? Only You have the words of eternal life!"

And He speaks over us and into us those words of eternal life. He speaks them into our sin wearied hearts and He makes promises to us and to those we have hurt. Promises of forgiveness and mercy, of love and presence, of taking all things broken and making them new.

 Lord, help me to pray for the healing of those I sin against and teach me to hope in a God who is so much bigger then the things I do to the people I love.

* * * * *

Thanks again to Wendy for all her insight here this week. She's a great writer, isn't she? You want her to blog, don't you? (Now look who's the pushy lass.) Next week, stay tuned for a return to some posts about calling. I don't think that dog is quite dead.

Blessings for your weekend. Grace and Peace.