Unbound and Set Free
Updated: Jun 2, 2021
There is a song I love by Michael Card named "Forgiving Eyes". It is from his album, The Life which consists of songs that cover the events and stories of Christian salvation history from the Old Testament into the New Testament.
The song "Forgiving Eyes" tells the story of a woman who was caught in the act of adultery and dragged before Jesus by the scribes and pharisees to test his fidelity to the law of Moses which stated that she was to be stoned to death. Jesus' unforgettable reply to them was "Let the one among you who is without guilt be the first to throw a stone at her." And the gospel of John (7:53-8:11) states that beginning from the oldest, her persecutors turned away until no one was left.
And Jesus asked her, "Woman, where are they? Has no one condemned you?"
She replied, "No one, sir."
And Jesus replied, "Neither do I condemn you. Go away, and from this moment sin no more."
"Forgiving Eyes" describes this story from the perspective of the woman caught in adultery who knew she was bound for death. And from the very first time I heard this song as a15 year-old, these lyrics penetrated my heart with longing:
"Just as I saw him, the hope I had lost became born again - I was not hopeless, Though I'd been lost, now I felt I was found when he looked at me with his Forgiving Eyes."
I wondered what it would feel like to have someone look at me in full knowledge of my sinfulness and imperfection - and tell me that I am not condemned, that I was forgiven and still utterly loved.
There was a part of me that feared and longed for an experience like that. I wondered what it would feel like to have someone look at me in full knowledge of my sinfulness and imperfection - and tell me that I am not condemned, that I was forgiven and still utterly loved.
I longed for that experience because I could not do it for myself. The only way I could think well of myself (loving myself was out of reach for me) was to see myself purely in the most positive light. And the only way I knew how to do that was to focus on my strengths, virtues and achievements.
Because I did not know how to hold space for myself in my pain, I ended up gaslighting myself with toxic positivity.
Whenever I encountered the slightest hint of criticism, I would feel shame well up within me, and I would quickly soothe myself by thinking, "Focus on the positive, not the negative!" It was only recently that I learned the term for this kind of positive thinking - toxic positivity. Because I did not know how to hold space for myself in my pain, I ended up gaslighting myself with toxic positivity.
I did not, could not experience that unconditional love and mercy of God that I cognitively believed in. There was such a huge dissonance between what I professed and the inability of my heart to rest secure in such a love that THAT became a source of shame for me as well. I felt shame at not being able to trust that God's love was truly unconditional.
There was such a huge dissonance between what I professed and the inability of my heart to rest secure in such a love that THAT became a source of shame for me as well. I did not know what to do.
Then one day in my thirtieth year, I experienced that very same encounter as the woman in the gospel did. I had poured out my grief, my shame, my helplessness - spoken for the first time on something I had not even allowed myself to think about for almost a whole decade - and I was met by a sword of truth that pierced my heart.
What was incredible was that the piercing did not hurt me. I was held in such compassion as truth pierced me that I was able to see clearly just how broken I was without shame or guilt. Instead, I felt liberated. It felt as if heavy chains that had bound my hands and feet had suddenly shattered and I could stand up free and unfettered to begin life again afresh.
After over twenty years of intellectually believing in God's unconditional love, I had finally looked into those Forgiving Eyes and found hope when I was hopeless. Truth AND Love together had penetrated me with light. I was never the same again.
(I share this story in the podcast episode below).
Listen to Episode 23 Safe Spaces for Growth: Trust, Truth and Compassion on the Becoming Me Podcast from Wednesday 2 June, 2021.
Apple Podcasts: https://buff.ly/34rFkIu
Google Podcasts: https://buff.ly/3n9MHgh