A good, hard look at sin and repentance

By Annie Garman

This summer has been rough in some ways. Not in every way, of course. I did spend the entire summer in a tourist destination, hiking volcanoes, soaking in hot springs, touching glaciers and chasing waterfalls. But, of course, you can’t run away from your problems—especially if you are the problem.

We spent the summer in Reykjavik, Iceland helping support our church plant there. Our family of six was in small dorm-type housing, which meant we rubbed shoulders A LOT over the course of eight weeks. Literally. There’s something about living in such close quarters with small children (with echoing acoustics) that can really bring out the worst in a person. Maybe it’s just me?

 “Have mercy on me, O God, according to your steadfast love; according to your abundant mercy blot out my transgressions. Wash me thoroughly from my iniquity, and cleanse me from my sin! For I KNOW my transgressions and my sin is ever before me.” (Psalm 51:1-3)

When I picked Psalm 51 to write on, I did so with reluctance. I mean, I didn’t exactly want to be put in the same category as David, the adulterer and murderer.

I wanted to think of myself as better than that.
“For I KNOW my transgressions and my sin is EVER before me.”(Psalm 51:3)

Historically, I haven’t known my transgressions, intimately. I haven’t reflected on them with fervor to bring them to light. Not doing so, though, is dangerous because it leads to self-righteousness. I would say I’ve been blind to my sin but that sounds a little too passive. Maybe I’ve willfully chosen to overlook it.

A major theme this summer was the second part of Psalm 51:3: “…and my sin is EVER BEFORE ME. So much of my sin was revealed recently, it seemed I was practically tripping over it. I could hardly make it through 10 minutes before my husband pointed out an attitude or action that was ungodly. “Can’t you just let it slide?” I found myself inwardly sneering. One day, when I actually said my thought out loud, he responded, “But, if you knew you had cancer cells, would you really want me to ‘just let it slide?’”

This summer, I felt this battle acutely. It’s a battle to kill the flesh, to understand rather than be understood, to serve rather than be served, to encourage rather than criticize, to listen rather than talk, to submit rather than argue, to give thanks rather than complain, to cultivate contentment rather than be jealous and to give love rather than to suck love. It’s been painful to realize how much I give in to my flesh. It’s humbling for my sin to be “ever before me.” And it’s blinding when it’s finally exposed.

Like the Psalmist, I am learning—slowly and painfully—just how deeply sinful I am. I am no better than a murderer. In fact, according to Jesus, I am one (Matthew 5:21-22).

We mustn’t be surprised by our sin.
When confronted with our failures, instead of justifying or blaming or evading or blowing up in anger or collapsing into self-pity and depression, we should look hard at this sin that grieves the heart of God. “Against you, and you only, have I sinned…” (Psalm 51:4).

The solution is repentance—good, old-fashioned repentance. “Purge me with hyssop and I shall be clean; wash me and I shall be whiter than snow” (Psalm 51:7).

So, this blog post is one long “note-to-self” reminding me how I was “brought forth in iniquity and in sin did my mother conceive me”(Psalm 51:5). “I am that sinful” needs to be tattooed on my arm—or at least on my soul. And when faced with my sin, my prayer should echo my fellow murderer, “Let the bones that you have broken rejoice. Hide your face from my sin, and blot out all my iniquities. Create in me a clean heart, O God, and renew a right spirit within me” (Psalm 51:8b-10).

Published September 29, 2016

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Annie Garman

Annie and her husband Colby live in Northern Virginia where Colby serves as the teaching pastor of Pillar Church. Before their church ministry days, they served for two years as IMB missionaries in Iceland. Annie spends her days taking care of her four daughters, writing and ministering at her local church. She shares about motherhood, mayhem, and the meaning of life from a place of transparency at anniebgarman.com.