"I've done some really messed up things in my life... things I can't undo. No matter how hard I try, I just can't seem to put the pieces back together. I'm just too so far gone. How could someone like me be forgiven? How could someone like me be washed of my sins when I feel so unworthy of God's love?"
I think the first hurdle anyone has to jump is the "Faith" hurdle. Is God real? Is the Bible really God's Word? Is that Word really a map to knowing God's promises in our life? Does it become an ever constant beacon of light even when everything around or inside us grows dark?
I really believe, the hardest hurdle to jump is the first one. Just getting over that wall of doubt or disbelief and laying hold of faith itself. Hebrews 11:1 says; "Faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things unseen." So faith, just simply believing, becomes a tangible, real thing for all that we're looking for. So real that is the "evidence" of God.
This is a beautiful paradox. So many people say "I would believe if God just showed me He is real." But free will requires us to take the first step in a relationship with God. Once we believe it just opens up from there. Which is why a believer can never really give an unbeliever any evidence of God, and at the same time the world can never convince a believer that He isn't real. Once we believe, the existence, the evidence of God in our life becomes undeniable.
Which is a powerful thing, especially when you consider how flawed we our. Luke 12:7 says "The hairs on your head are numbered." Which means God is the only being in the universe that knows me more intimately than i know myself, and that's terrifying. I can do my best to keep myself together in front of the world. Hide my flaws, my failures, my sin, my struggles... but at the end of the day when I look in the mirror I face them all head on. The weight of those flaws is heavy, and to think that the Creator of the universe has an even better understanding of those flaws than even me is scary.
But then... it's amazing. Because in the midst of that He still sees something in me worth saving. Romans 8:28 says "He works ALL things TOGETHER for GOOD for those who are called according to His purpose." Which means, even the truly terrible things I've done, things I can't forget, things I can't erase or escape. Things that haunt me when I lay down at night. All those things are building blocks to Him. The awful, terrible, crazy things I've done are the very material God will use for GOOD in my life... IF I am called according to HIS purpose.
Psalm 103:12 says "As far as the East is from the West, He has removed my sins from me." Knowing myself and all the rotten things I've done, I can't fathom that... because sitting in the decay of my wrongs I can't possibly understand what God is about to do with them. I can't see what He has down the road. Which is why "FAITH" is that vital first step. Because it's THE step that the more we repeat the clearer we see. When I know I'm a rotten person, it takes faith to really believe that God can do something good with my life. It takes faith to start letting Him, and it takes faith to start walking that journey when you have no idea where it's going.
But slowly by slowly we faith takes the place of our failures until eventually all we can see of our past is the good God is doing with it. This might shake the foundation of your Catholic upbringing a bit, but the Bible isn't some old religious book about a bunch of Saints. It's the biography of a bunch of screw ups. Ordinary men and women who were able to grip onto faith just enough to let God do amazing things in their life... and through that little mustard seed of faith, He parted seas, He healed the sick, He calmed both the storms above and within.
I'm 100% sure you've messed up Dave. Romans 3:23 says "ALL have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God." You and me both. And we are unworthy, we know it all the way to our bones... and yet, somehow God looks at us and sees something He's just waiting to get ahold of to create something beautiful. When I wrote that song, I didn't understand it. I was still too buried in my mess. I knew when I fell on my knees and asked God to forgive me that He did, and that all the dirt behind me was removed from me like the east is from the west. But I hadn't made enough steps of faith yet to really see what He would soon do. I just had to start walking.
God knows, that journey has been a long, brutal and painful one. But the most beautiful journey I could have ever dreamed of making. With each step what was behind me got further away, and what He had waiting in from of me got closer. Along the way I fell, fell and fell again. I could've given up, thrown in the towel, said screw it and ran back to that past that was so familiar, but somehow I kept stepping. One day at a time, one foot in front of the other. And He kept forgiving, kept building and kept strengthening me.
Philippians 1:6 says "He who began a GOOD WORK in you WILL be faithful to COMPLETE it until the day of Jesus Christ." Meaning; once I stepped over that first hurdle, took hold of simply believing that God was real, that He loved me, and wanted to do something great in me despite all the wrong I had done, His promise was; He would bring me to completion whether I understood the journey or not. I'll be the first to admit I'm one hell of a work in progress, but day by day I understand a little more, get a little clearer picture of what He's doing and the byproduct of it; is that I have peace with my past. I can't change what's behind me, neither can you. But when God gets His hands around your heart there's no piece of your past that's too terrible that He can't shape it into the most beautiful building block for purpose in your life.
When it's all said and done, all those blocks come together perfectly, in a way you could never have imagined, to build you up into an unshakable monument for God's grace in the middle of a watching world looking for answers. Hebrews 4:12 says "The Word of God is living and powerful and sharper than a two edged sword, piercing to the division of the soul." Meaning, once we jump that first hurdle and simply believe the promises in His Word start to take hold in our life, and no matter what we're going through at any point in our life. This book. This old diary of screwed up people and amazing promises can cut through time, right to the very division in your soul in this moment and be a light to your path on your journey of faith.
And the more steps you take, the further you get from the weight of what's behind you and the closer you get to seeing His purpose for your life. Eventually the things you regret will have no weight at all, and then become the very things you love about yourself. Because you don't see mistakes, you just see Grace. If I could encourage you in any way brother. Start with faith. Sounds like you're already there. Then just start walking, by faith. One step at a time, closer and closer to Him. There's no secret sauce, no magic words. You just start stepping, and I promise you, what He does in your life will become undeniable.
There is nothing in this world that can convince me against what I've seen God do in my life. It's too real. The things I've seen are an evidence so unshakable that it would be impossible to ignore or forget it. At this point in my journey, it would take more blind faith to believe that God didn't exist and that He wasn't working in my life that it would to move whatever mountain is in front of me. The task for the day is just giving Him the reigns and taking one more step even when I don't fully understand where He's taking me. I just keep walking. Living, loving and spilling out His grace to people like yourself one day at a time.