Inside Our Hidden Places

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God’s Living Word Should Replace Guilt With Grace

by Eric Elkin

“…because God’s word is living, active, and sharper than any two-edged sword. It penetrates to the point that it separates the soul from the spirit and the joints from the marrow. It’s able to judge the heart’s thoughts and intentions.”
— Hebrews 4:12

On Wednesday nights I lead an adult bible study. The curriculum I chose was a video-based program which did not require advanced reading but encouraged conversation. Specifically, it invites participants to share the roots of their own faith life. The speaker’s style often drives me crazy, but we do get into great conversations.

The other night, the speaker talked about the things we like to keep hidden about our lives. Stuff from our past which produced some form of guilt or shame. Perhaps a word shared which we wish hadn’t been spoken. Or, an aggressive reaction to something which required patience. We carry these memories in our hearts but bury them where no one can see. 

He then invited people to share with the group something they like to keep hidden. Silence fell over the room until one person said, “Why would I share something I want to be hidden with a group of people?” Good point. There are good reasons to share what wounds us, it’s just a group format is not always the best place to do it.

The class session reminded me how much of our lives are hidden, not just emotionally, but biologically. We have no clue what is taking place under our skin. A person can appear and feel fantastic, but a random visit to the doctor reveals a significant health risk. Sometimes the unknown threat is not discovered until it is too late.

Basically, grace is God’s first name, and probably last too. Grace is what God does to keep all things God has made in love and alive—forever.
— Richard Rohr

When a disease is discovered, we go to a doctor. Sometimes the treatment to make us well requires surgery. The surgeon will take a scalpel and cut into our bodies. The objective is to cut away the sickness from the healthy parts of the body. Not many people would choose to leave an illness untreated if surgery would help bring healing.

The surgery suggested in this text is a spiritual one. Very few people enjoy any medical procedures. Spiritual operations are equally terrifying. Who wants the thoughts and intentions of their heart judged? Especially, when the image is of cutting joints from marrow? Yuck!

Hope is found in the last verse of today’s reading. We approach this operation confident that we will receive mercy and grace as needed. Therefore, this spiritual surgery involves cutting out the guilt and shame we carry hidden in our hearts and replacing it with grace and mercy. Now, who wouldn’t want that kind of operation? I know I would.

Click to read: Hebrews 4:12-16

Reflection Questions:

  • Think of two lists: the first lists your accomplishments. The second list is your failures or times you wish you had done better.

  • Which of those two lists is longer? And, why?

  • How do you cope with the wounds of your past?

  • Would you elect to have a surgery which removed your guilt and replaced it with mercy?

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