Forgiveness is powerful. The person who forgives extends mercy and peace, while the person being forgiven receives absolution and another chance.
When it comes to our relationship with God, we can know that He forgives us when we repent with a contrite heart.
“If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” (1 John 1:9 KJV)
Yet, so often, we limit the empowerment that comes from God’s forgiveness. We heap our past mistakes on our shoulders, allowing ourselves to be weighed down with guilt, shame and frustration. God doesn’t want us to wallow in our mistakes, stuck in a rut of hopelessness and fear. He doesn’t just forgive; He wants to cleanse.
“‘Come now, let’s settle this,’ says the Lord. ‘Though your sins are like scarlet, I will make them white as snow. Though they are red like crimson, I will make them as white as wool.’” (Isaiah 1:18 NLT)
I tend to picture a cute lamb with pure white fleece when I read this verse. But that’s not how our sins look. Instead, they’re unruly, obtrusive and ugly — nothing like an innocent lamb. And, realistically, that’s not how a sheep looks after a few months of living in the real world. Its fleece gets long, matted, dirty and cumbersome.
So, how does that wool create beautiful clothes, blankets and rugs? You can’t just take the wool straight from a sheep and create a masterpiece. The process requires a few steps first, and God uses a similar cleansing process with us.
1. Shear the sheep.
When processing wool, a shearer first needs to carefully cut the fleece away from the sheep’s body. The shearer must know exactly where to cut, how to position the sheep and how to calm it down. Meantime, the sheep is uncomfortable, scared and, ultimately, exposed.
But this step is necessary to remove the fleece that would otherwise weigh the sheep down. In the same way, God wants to shear the sins that burden us, obscure our vision and trip us up. We can trust Him as the shepherd to know what to cut away and to take care of us in this vulnerable time.
“The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want. He maketh me to lie down in green pastures; He leadeth me beside the still waters.” (Psalm 23:1-2 KJV)
2. Grade and sort the wool.
The next step is to sort the sheared wool into sections based on quality. Wool has different value depending on where it originated from on the sheep’s body. So, wool from the shoulders might be used for clothing, while coarse wool from the legs might be made into a rug.
Likewise, God examines and directs our lives so we can best fulfill our potential. He sees how one chapter in your story can be used to develop a ministry, or how a rough part of your life can become a powerful testimony. He can even use the parts of you that nobody, including you, considers valuable.
“Search me, O God, and know my heart; test me and know my anxious thoughts. Point out anything in me that offends You, and lead me along the path of everlasting life.” (Psalm 139:23-24 NLT)
3. Clean and scour the wool.
This is when the cleansing process really starts to heat up. Sheared fleece contains dirt, oils, sweat and fecal matter — all of which can make up to 50% of the fleece’s weight. At this point, the fleece has the potential to be valuable, but it’s not quite ready. The wool needs to undergo a treatment with hot water and soap. It soaks and soaks, and then it is squeezed and squeezed. It might even have to go through the process again.
God does the same thing with us, as He washes away our impurities. It might feel like you’re drowning, or suffocating or waiting endlessly, but you can trust God. He won’t scald, crush or abandon you.
“Purify me from my sins, and I will be clean; wash me, and I will be whiter than snow.” (Psalm 51:7 NLT)
4. Card the wool.
The wool still isn’t ready, though. It needs to be combed through with metal teeth to separate the individual wool fibers and remove leftover impurities. After the fibers have been broken apart and smoothed, they can finally be spun together into stronger strands of yarn.
We might experience “combing” times when it feels like we’re being torn apart, bruised and broken. It might be hard to believe this is part of God’s plan to develop us, but He’s in control.
“And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to His purpose.” (Romans 8:28 KJV)
You are not defined by your past mistakes. Your sins have been removed and erased. You have been forgiven. What’s more, you have been cleansed, so walk in freedom!
BY JEN ENGLISH