One of my earliest lessons in grace came from my mother. I was playing football with my friends and after one particularly rough tackle, I noticed that one lens of my glasses was now 45 degrees to the other. Seared into my memory is the snap! as I tried to bend them back into place. I now held two monocles.
Instant panic. We were not a wealthy family, and I knew I wore my most expensive possession around on my face. I also knew that my mother had found a two-for-one deal the last time I got new glasses, and I was supposed to be wearing the sturdier (but, in my mind, nerdier) pair when playing sports.
I shook the entire way home, leaving my friends behind with barely a word. I don’t even remember what my mother said when I got home, but I am guessing the guilt and shame must have been pouring off me so thoroughly that she knew there was little that she needed to say. She just grabbed the nerdy glasses, and I wore those until we got the other pair repaired by a jeweler.
Confession and forgiveness. Sin and grace. Oh, and a little penance, too – I am pretty sure I had to pay at least half of the repair cost, my mother being both a good teacher and frugal.
Prayer is one of our best forms of communication with God, and like our conversations with one another, speaking with God works best when we are honest. Especially when we, ourselves, are the topic. When we sin or fall short, nothing will ever get any better if we try to hide that fact from God or from ourselves. With repentance comes forgiveness, the great gift of Jesus Christ.
The challenge, of course, is that is not always how it works. There are times when we will do anything but admit we are wrong. Hopefully we still pray in those moments. Because even if God is rolling his eyes along with everyone else, at least we keep the conversation going. Arrogant or contentious prayer is not exactly ideal, but far better than silence.
The renewal that we seek, whether in our own lives or in our world at large, thrives on honesty. Which means we may need to pop a few myths we tell about ourselves and reevaluate even long-held beliefs and traditions. Being a bit more humble and forgiving doesn’t hurt either.
God sees and hears us, through all the twists and turns of our lives. Few things are more comforting – or more frightening. Such are the blessings of our living, loving God.
James Muske is pastor at Bethesda Lutheran Church of Malmo.