Spiritual Practice


Nan Johnson & Ellen Lipford, 16

When my friend Marie told me that our youth pastor had been sexually abusing her, we agreed to talk to our parents and our pastor. An investigation began, but the youth pastor presented evidence proving his innocence. My parents told me that Marie was looking for attention and that I shouldn’t spend time with her. So I avoided Marie, and I wasn’t the only one. Then she moved.

Six months later, the youth pastor was caught abusing four other girls. He was convicted and sentenced to fifteen years in jail.

The guilt I felt was wrenching. If I had listened to Marie, I could have helped to end the abuse. If I had done this, if I had done that—on and on, I tortured myself. I tried to apologize, but Marie was nowhere to be found.

If our hearts condemn us, we know that God is greater than our hearts, and he knows everything.
1 John 3:20 (NIV)

Finally, a mentor sat me down and said, “Guilt is not of God; forgiveness is.” Unable to forgive myself, I had been unconsciously doubting Christ’s forgiveness.

—Nan Johnson


 If God can forgive me, I can let go of the guilt. God knows I can’t be perfect, but God wants me to keep growing. Only when I learn to forgive myself am I able to move on. No matter what we have done, God is always willing to forgive. May this promise help you to forgive yourself.

—Ellen Lipford, 16


—from devozine (May/June 2014). Copyright © 2014 by The Upper Room®. All rights reserved.<
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