My stomach growled with hunger and my feet hurt from a busy twelve-hour shift, but I resisted the urge to go home and collapse. Instead I crept into the soft glow of the sanctuary at the Methodist church a few blocks from work.
It was Ash Wednesday, and I remembered how the service last year had touched me. Spiritual traditions, when done with a focus on worshiping Jesus, can be incredibly life-giving.
Still in my scrubs, I left the stresses of work behind, and centered my heart. God’s presence filled the church so strongly that I felt like I was squinting into a light so beautiful and clear that it almost hurt.
Moving between the stations focusing on prayer, reflection, grace, and forgiveness, I stopped at a little table holding a pile of smooth rocks. “Write down a sin or worry that weighs you down” the sign said.
I picked up a rock, feeling its cool smoothness in my hand, and stood there, unmoving, with tears in my eyes.
For a long moment I stood, crying silently. Thinking of a sin or a worry was not a problem. My problem was being utterly overwhelmed with all the sins and worries in my life and being unable to choose just one.
Finally, I picked up the chalk and wrote a few words on my rock. I felt its weight in my hand until the very end of the evening, when we were instructed to let the rock go, trusting Jesus to take care of our worries and wash away our sins.
I watched the rock slide away from my fingers, and heard God speak into my spirit. I came not to condemn, but to forgive.
This week I needed that reminder when I felt myself spiraling into guilt and depression. Jesus knows all about my sins. He hates them even more than I do. But He did not come to condemn. When others speak condemnation into my life, that is not from Him.
For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him.
John 3:17 (ESV)
Jesus came to forgive. And that forgiveness is part of the grand and glorious plan of Him saving me, changing me, and enabling me to walk in the light of His life.
Today is Palm Sunday, which marks the beginning of Holy Week. Wave your palm branch with joy and remember Jesus. Rejoice that your King has come, and let the condemnation go.
There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. For the law of the Spirit of life has set you free in Christ Jesus from the law of sin and death.
Romans 8:1-2 (ESV)
Jesus came not to condemn, but to forgive.