God & Garlic

**This guest blog was written by Kendra Sills. Kendra has been a long-time friend of MixxLife and is a talented and humorous writer. Inspired by the 40 days of prayer initiative at the Risen King Community Church, in Redding California, Kendra has been joining her LifeGroup in corporate prayer as they read daily teachings from the book “Draw the Circle”, by Mark Batterson. We are so excited to share this piece with you and look forward to more writings from her in the future.**

A couple of days ago I made a side dish of delicious roasted carrots, potatoes, and parsnips. The recipe called for a full head of garlic. I was directed by the recipe to crush the individual cloves a bit with the palm of my hand to bring out the flavor before adding it to the vegetables. It turned out to be the most delicious, garlic-y side dish in recent memory.Garlic

There was a problem though. My hands now reeked of garlic. If I had attempted to hail a cab at that moment I might have caused a 30 vehicle pile-up. My hands could have been used in chemical warfare. I ought to have been wearing a hazmat warning label.

Now, in and of itself, I don’t mind smelling a little bit like an Italian bistro, but when every gesture made toward one’s face makes your eyes begin to water it begins to become tedious. Yes, yes, I’ve tried lemons. And the stainless steel soap bar thingy. And all the other many “helpful” tips passed from parent to child over the decades. None of it seems to get the stink off. Still the smell lingered on.

In the past I would ask friends what they did. They all had answers, that worked “every time” for them. I tried all of their suggestions with reserved hope that what removed the mark from their hands would also remove it from mine. It did  not. Whether my hands were just super good at the absorption of all things garlic or whether my nose was better than a bloodhound’s, I did not know. Either way, I eventually decided that it was something I just had to accept about myself, and move on with. Just another peculiarity that was specific and faulty to me alone.

It was a couple of days after this meal that I had a culinary and spiritual epiphany. One part of Christianity I had always found difficult to embrace was forgiveness of sin. I have never had that problem with embracing guilt. Guilt was my companion. Guilt was the funny shaped birthmark that I tried to cover up on hot summer days so no one would see it showing. Guilt had become a huge part of how I identified as “me”. Now while I am fairly cognizant that I heap guilt upon myself for my trespasses, both large and small, I wasn’t as aware that I never let it go. It fades as I make amends, or grow into a more mature human, but it still lingers… like the garlic.

The way that I had convinced myself that the stench of garlic wouldn’t leave my calloused fingers was the same way I had convinced myself that my sins were something I had to carry around like a cloud of unpleasant stink that only I could not find the remedy for. It worked for others and I saw, regularly, the weights lifted from them as they turned to God for forgiveness. As a Christian, I know God forgives those who truly repent of their sins. But just as the garlic solutions didn’t seem to work for me, I feared his forgiveness was something out of my reach.  I seemed to have difficulty feeling that if I asked God to forgive me for my sins, that I could move on and not carry that guilt around any longer.

Does God love me less? Well, no. Are my sins unforgivable? No again. So why couldn’t I believe that God would do for me, what he graciously does for every other Christian?

Part of it has to do with a family culture of self chastisement. More of it has to do with the fact that I have never experienced true forgiveness in another toward me. Having said that, it’s not exactly fair to expect from humans that which only a perfect God can give.

I have to say that the biggest teachers in my new Christian life are my children. At five and seven they are certainly no theologians, but they give me great insight to a miniature example of the relationship of the Father and His children. My kids are fabulous, but they make mistakes. When they do, sometimes they have to come to me and admit what they have done, why they did it, and ask for forgiveness. As a parent, I have a pretty good sense of when they are being sincere, and when they are reciting what they think I want to hear. When the repentance is sincere, there is nothing easier in the world than to forgive them. I want them to grow from their mistakes, not carry them around like dead weight. And when I forgive them, they believe me.

Why do they believe me? Because they know that I can be trusted. To them I am big, all knowing, all powerful, the biggest thing on this planet in human form that they can conceive of. They are convinced that what I say is so. Being a parent is an awesome power in the microcosm of a child’s universe. Please don’t misunderstand, I am not comparing myself to God. I am comparing the trust my children have in my ability and commitment to forgive them, with the trust I should have in a God who is so much greater and steadfast than I could ever hope to be. If my forgiveness pours from me for my children, how more fully must God’s forgiveness pour out for us when we truly repent?

That’s the key. Believing that the One who forgives has the power and intent to fully do so unconditionally. When we know that forgiveness is complete, we can set that guilt down and walk away. I needed to believe in a God who forgives unconditionally, and I wasn’t. I wasn’t trusting that His blood is the solvent that permits me to set down my burden once and for all and be washed clean to start anew with the great relief of a forgiven child.

I am grateful for the way God has used my children to teach me how to become a better Christian and parent. My kids bring me back to focus on the things that have importance and the simple truths that I so often need reminding of. Perhaps I should have asked them how to get rid of this horrid garlic smell on my hands?

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