Misery addict

I think it’s fair to say I lived most of my life as an addict to misery.

Like a kid who grows up eating mashed potatoes with chocolate sauce and craves it ever after, I grew up thinking I was supposed to be miserable, that it was dutiful to be miserable, and that I could possibly pay a bit of my sin off if I was miserable enough.

Where I got these ideas, I don’t really know.  I mean, I know where they originally came from: Satan.  But I don’t know how they got into my head.  Satan doesn’t just start his work when we become an adult, though, and I remember from kidhood feeling “comfortable” feeling guilty.

Guilt is like an ugly house.  It doesn’t go away just because you want it to.  And if it’s the only place you have to live, well, you get used to it.  That was how it was with me.

When I realized as a grown up that God wanted to free me from my guilt, it was like an inmate who’s been on death row for 19 years finding out he’s been pardoned.  I was overjoyed.  I’d been handed a ticket to freedom and the confetti was flying around me.

Visiting the house of forgiveness was more thrilling for me than all the houses ever built on Extreme Home Makeovers put together.  The house of forgiveness was a mansion to explore.  Deep carpets, wood floors, arched doorways, glimmering mosaic tiles, vast staircases with wooden bannisters, chandeliers, built-in bookcases, skylights, stained glass windows, deep but bright basements, secret rooms, stunning lofts–the house of forgiveness is gorgeous.  In my wildest dreams, I would never have imagined I could stay here.

And then it hit me.  I’d have to leave my house of guilt for good.

It was scary.

I know the couch, chairs, and kitchen sink in the house of guilt.  I know where the stains on the ceilings are and what holes in the wall the roaches crawl in and out of.

I feel uncomfortable and very unbelonging staying in the house of freedom.  I didn’t mind visiting.  I liked looking at the handmade furniture upholstered in astonishingly beautiful fabrics.  I liked admiring the fireplaces and marble counters and exquisite painting.  I was awed walking through the never-ending array of rooms.

But I didn’t want to stay there.

And so, hesitantly, looking at God nervously out of the sides of my eyes, I politely said my thank-yous and crept away.  I slipped back in the house of guilt for a few nights.

When I needed a break from self-horror, I silently crept back over to the house of forgiveness, hoping God wouldn’t have noticed by absence.

What I didn’t realize, or didn’t want to admit to myself, is that rejecting the joy forgiveness brings to return to the misery of guilt is like taking a present, thanking the giver, and quietly putting it away in a closet to save for later.

Grace overwhelms me.  It scares me.  It feels unpredictable to me, uncertain, and, sometimes, surely like it can’t be true.  The house of guilt is dim, and I feel safer in dim light.  All the windows are boarded up.  The house of forgiveness streams with daylight and even has a floor-length mirror, and I feel frightened to look at who I am and wonder if my sin has really been taken away from me.

I desperately want God’s love . . . but I want Him to come to the house of guilt and stay there with me.  I somehow want God’s love to come through His condemnation of me, so I can feel more comfortable with myself.  I want to be able to pay Him back, in little ways, by His anger and my misery, as if this could somehow ever work.

I used to be a misery addict, all right.

–But, once you’ve been, once you’ve seen the house of forgiveness for yourself, staying away is like inviting an anvil to fall on your head.  I don’t want condemnation anymore.  I want forgiveness.

Hello.  My name is Forgiven.  And I’m a recovering misery addict.

If the Son gives you freedom, you are free! (John 8:36, CEV)


See Copyright Page for Bible Translation information.

Scripture taken from the Contemporary English Version © 1991, 1992, 1995 by American Bible Society, Used by Permission.


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