Stephanie Ehmke, MA, LPC
Return to Me
“Even now, turn back your heart and rededicate yourselves to Me…”
Joel 2:12 (The Voice)
Nothing, and I mean nothing, robs me of self-control and my ability to love like Jesus like my cell phone carrier.
Seriously, I am not exaggerating. Over the past 5 years, the number of times I’ve had to publicly apologize for being rude and borderline belligerent have been to the person on the other end of the phone line or behind the counter with one of my cell carrier representatives. It is awful.
Most times I remember to pray before I go in or call, but on the last occasion, I forgot. We had supposedly rectified our previous issues, so I thought I was strong enough to handle what may come at me. I was wrong – very, very wrong.
I HATE IT when this ugly side of me comes out. It is in no way a representation of my Savior, who I so desperately want to be like, and it makes me feel like a failure.
There are people I know who would jump all over the chance to say, “See you are just a hypocrite. You are no better than anyone else.” And you know what? They are right. I am not any better than anyone else. This ugly side that creeps up on me is the reason I need a Savior.
This side of glory I am never going to be a perfect representation of my Savior. But I am trying. Each time I swallow my pride and publicly apologize for bad behaviors, ask for forgiveness, and do my part to get back on track, I am honoring my Lord. This is where we all need to start – honoring him, trusting his forgiveness, and moving forward.
Now to be clear, there are always consequences for our behaviors, but accepting consequences doesn’t mean we aren’t forgiven. However, I’m finding that accepting God’s forgiveness is much harder than you might believe.
I think this has been heavy on my heart to write about because I’ve been reading in the Old Testament books of Joel and Amos this week. These are not “fun” parts of Scripture to read but they do speak to God’s unfailing love and mercy.
Amos Chapter 4 specifically grabbed my heart and got my attention. Five times in this chapter, specific consequences are mentioned for Israel’s bad behavior. That is not what jumped out at me though. What did was the same phrase that is repeated after each consequence, “‘… yet you have not returned to me,’ declared the Lord.”
I personally hear a voice of sadness when I read these words.
God has kind of gotten the reputation for being mean and vengeful in the Old Testament. But honestly, that’s not what I see. What I see is a loving father who says, “Here are consequences you can avoid if you do the things I’ve put in place to keep you safe. If you choose not to follow those ways, you are choosing the consequences that will come. But even then, I will still love you and will be waiting for you.”
I know of no greater love.
Over and over throughout Scripture, God is absolutely clear that his desire is for his people to turn to him, no matter how far off track their lives have gotten. On the surface, this should sound like great news, right? But if that’s the case, then why is it so hard to turn back to God when we mess up?
When I reflect on how much of a failure I felt like last month when I freaked out on the cellular representative, my heart fills with compassion for those who struggle to “turn back to God.”
I knew, even in my ugliness that day, God still loved me. I did not doubt it for a moment and this gave me the strength to own up to the ugliness I displayed. And yet, for a brief time, I still felt like a failure.
So what happens if you don’t have confidence in his love? What if what you’ve done is way more consequential and devastating to those around you? Is God still inviting even you, in your mess, to return to him?
With every fiber of my being, my prayer is that you hear my resounding, YES!!!
No matter where you are on your journey with God, no matter what you’ve done, his invitation is still the same. “EVEN NOW, turn back your heart and rededicate yourselves to Me…” (Joel 2:12).
You are God’s beloved child. May you find hope this week in the knowledge that no matter where you’ve been or what you’ve done, God's invitation is and will forever be open for your return home to his unfailing love.
For Your Reflection…
Do you need to return to God? What is getting in your way?
Trust in his open invitation to “return to Him.” Anytime.