“I often feel, when I try to repent, that God looks at me saying, ‘You again? Ugh. Why can’t you ever get it right?’” she said to me.
“I think that is because we forget that each side eagerly wants to win us over,” I replied. “The devil keeps receiving us back into sin, even after we’ve turned to God and made a good confession. We have no problem believing that the devil will always take us back. However, God desires our return even more so. Our Lord told the Apostle Peter to forgive his brother seventy times seven. The Lord is even more merciful than that and will forgive us more than seventy times seven everyday if necessary.”
I continued, “The Lord’s capacity for mercy and love far exceeds the devil’s for hatred. As much as the devil wants to see us fall, and as much as we feel that pressure, he is not nearly as motivated as God is to see us saved.”
“But I still can’t help thinking of God as being angry. He must have his finger hovering over the ‘Smite’ button when he looks at me,” she said.
“Imagine you are a sheep in this great sheep pen. You see the shepherd walking among the sheep, and every once in a while he gently strikes a sheep with his staff to keep it from straying. While he does so with the utmost gentleness and love, you perceive these actions as him beating the other sheep, and yourself, when he turns to you.”
“I know,” she sighed, “and I see some of the sheep playing with the shepherd. They love him and he loves them so much, but I feel like I’m too bad of a sheep for him to love.”
“There are wolves who sit around the edges of the pen,” I said. “They whisper lies about the shepherd, twisting his character into something that it is not. Why? So that you’ll abandon the shepherd, leave the pen, and become the dinner of the wolves. They can’t enter the pen and drag you out, the shepherd would slay them immediately. But they can try to lure you out through various enticements or through maligning the character of the shepherd.”
“I don’t want to think that way about the shepherd, but I can’t help it,” she said with honesty.
“I know,” I replied. “This shepherd knows you had a rough childhood. Your papa-sheep was often cruel and manipulative, quite far from loving. The experience has warped your perception of the shepherd and subconsciously causes you to mix the two up in your mind. But the shepherd knows that. He isn’t surprised by your struggle, and he certainly won’t give up on you because of this.
“Try to push the lies of the wolves out of your mind every time they begin whispering, which they will do, you can be certain of that. With some time, you may be one of those sheep who frolics with the shepherd, but you will have to ignore the wolves because they hate him and don’t want to see you near him. Their lies act as poison in your mind, darkening everything it touches. Keep struggling and the shepherd will pull you through in the end. He will never give up on you.”
Image: Shepherd Tending His Flock by Cornelis Westerbeek 1844-1903 Nederland, shared by Amber Tree