I enjoyed my restful weekend getaway to Santa Fe. I soaked in the artistic vibe, visited historic churches, and ate delicious Southwestern food. All was well until I got on the escalator to catch the tram at the airport to travel from one terminal to the other to get back to my car. I wasn’t up very far when my roller bag fell, and I couldn’t grab it quickly enough. Down it went on the escalator, one step at a time as I backtracked attempting to catch it. But I couldn’t reach it. Thankfully, no one was behind me on the escalator, so my bag and I didn’t disturb anyone else as down we went. At the same time, there was no one to help stop the situation, so we kept going until we reached the bottom and the bag stopped, and I fell down where the escalator met the floor.
A young man approached me and asked if I was okay. I bounced back up quickly and said I was fine. I started back up the escalator, bag secure, and hurried to the tram. I knew my knee and elbow didn’t feel great (see picture below of my knee complete with escalator track marks), but I didn’t take time to look at them. Instead, I got on the tram and tried to act like nothing had happened. I found myself swimming in embarrassment though, almost as if I were shrinking into myself. I felt like everyone had seen my tumble even though no one else on the tram had seen what happened.
I think sometimes we walk through life wearing our mistakes as if others can see our worst moments. Even when others know nothing about what has happened or what we’ve done, the shame or pain may weigh us down and shape how we approach everything. We may carry the heaviness with us causing us to pull back from others. We put our guard up and hide our true selves afraid that if someone really knew us, they wouldn’t like what they see.
Yet, the One who knows us and knows all the choices we’ve made and all that has happened to us does not want us to live our lives in shame. God forgives us and wants us to work through the process of forgiving ourselves. The writer of the book of Ephesians said, “Get rid of all bitterness, rage and anger, brawling and slander, along with every form of malice. Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you” (Eph. 4:31-32). This advice to be kind, compassionate, and forgiving applies to how we treat others as well as how we treat ourselves. God doesn’t want us to talk to ourselves in hateful ways or berate ourselves constantly for the past. God doesn’t want us to always feel burdened by the pain we’ve experienced.
Working through pain and the past isn’t easy. It can take a long time, and we may need a great deal of support, including help from mental health professionals. But we must remember that God wants us to heal from the past wounds – those imposed by others and those we’ve imposed on ourselves.
When we find ourselves withdrawing into ourselves and away from others because we are convinced we are unworthy and unlovable, let us remember that God forgives us and loves us. God wants us to follow his example and forgive and love ourselves too.