How Do You Recover From a Costly Mistake?

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How Do You Recover From a Costly Mistake?

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At a Christian Living class at Camp Pinecrest in Missouri last summer, campers and staff were discussing the topic of morality and dating. There was a great deal of conversation regarding the need to remain pure and chaste while dating. Most agreed that young men and women should enter the marriage union without having engaged in premarital sexual activity.

But what if you already have? What if you have already had sexual relationships in the past? Maybe you have had a child out of wedlock or an abortion. Are you no longer capable of a happy, healthy marriage relationship? How does God see you? How do you see yourself?

No one can argue that the age in which we live isn't filled with promiscuity. Sexual activity and conversation punctuate virtually every prime-time television show. Movies, music and even video games are filled with the subject. It is no wonder that premarital sexual activity among young people occurs, even within the Church of God.

God allows us to make choices. Sometimes we make good ones, sometimes we don't. Some decisions we make have ramifications that last for a few seconds, while others last a lifetime. If God loves us so much, why doesn't He stop us from making decisions that could jeopardize our future happiness? Why doesn't He intervene and keep us from engaging in activities that will affect the rest of our lives?

As a mother of four children, I realize how difficult being a parent can be. Children learn things in different ways and stages. I vividly recall one adventuresome child who was determined that she could jump off of the top bunk bed and not get hurt. After several admonitions, I left the room knowing exactly what would occur within the next few seconds. Thump. Then came the yelp of pain that I was expecting.

I quickly reentered the room, comforted her and reminded her that sometimes it is better to listen to the voice of experience than to experiment on her own. However, it took two more attempts before she got the point. Sometimes we learn from a soft voice of admonition, but when we refuse to hear it, we pay a penalty. The lesson learned from firsthand experience may be a great teacher, but it is also the one that causes the most pain.

Not all of us are willing to take admonition from a cautionary word of correction. Some do, but many do not. When we look at the world around us, we see people dating anybody they please. We see unmarried people holding hands, kissing and engaging in sexual activity. These people appear to be happy. They have somebody who makes them feel wanted and needed. Why wouldn't this be a good thing? Why would God not allow us to engage in something that feels so good? If He loves us so much, why does He forbid us from taking part in some activities that seem to be so enjoyable?

Have you ever babysat a small child, maybe a 4- or 5-year-old? If you opened the cupboard or refrigerator and asked the child what he would like to eat for dinner, would he choose steamed broccoli with a side of sautéed carrots? Or would he zero in on the ice cream? Little children don't know what is good for them. They know what they want and what they like. Older children, and even adults, are often the same. There are things God has designed that are good for us but other things that would cause misery in a way that we may not be able to see.

For this reason, God has made some things out of bounds at all times and other things out of bounds only at certain stages in our lives. In the case of sex, He has created an environment where the right relationship at the right time of life is a beautiful blessing. When engaged in at the wrong time, sexual activity causes problems and difficulties—sometimes with results that last for a lifetime. AIDS, pregnancy and sexually transmitted diseases are only a few of those effects.

So what if you have already engaged in sexual activities outside of marriage? What does the future hold for you? How can you have a right relationship with a future mate and with God?

One of my children broke a bone in her hand playing sports. When the doctor was putting the cast on her hand, he told me that the bone would heal in about six weeks or so and that the place where the break had occurred would become the strongest part of her hand. When a bone heals, the body creates an area of increased density and strength at the site of the break. However, if an X-ray of the location is taken, there will always be a deformity in that spot. In other words, there would always be a scar.

When we break God's laws, there are always scars. Sometimes they are not visible to those around us and sometimes they may not show up for some time, but they are still there. They may be physical, but they could also be emotional or psychological. However, as with a healed bone, areas that were previously flaws can become our greatest strengths.

Learning lessons the hard way is painful but often very effective. The humble repentance that ensues when a critical lesson is learned can be lifelong and profound.

Once this type of true, godly repentance is reached, the action that led to it is seldom repeated. Not only that, but one who has had to learn this way is often a very effective teacher helping others avoid the same sin. But how does God view us after we have made such a mistake and repented of it? The Bible shows us some examples of how God, the ultimate loving Parent, receives one of His children who comes to Him in a humble and repentant attitude. The story of the “prodigal” son, found in Luke 15, is a sterling example of how a loving father welcomed his repentant son back.

Another beautiful example of a love story is found in Ezekiel 16. In this account, God speaks of finding His bride as an infant, cast away to die. He took her in and protected her, providing everything she needed to grow into a beautiful woman. But her pride and vanity caused her to defile herself with other lovers and to commit fornication.

However, in time she became ashamed of her actions and repented. God then took her back and renewed His covenant with her. We know that this is speaking about His people, Israel, who rejected His laws and became involved in the political and religious system of the world. God was foretelling their repentance and His loving forgiveness.

The marriage union is called a great mystery that symbolizes Christ and the Church. Jesus Christ will come to marry His Bride at His return. His Bride has not always been faithful to Him and has had to repent. The blood of Christ was shed for our sins, and those whom He has called are cleansed by that miracle.

Why is this so important? Because every single human being has sinned. Every one of us has had a need to repent and must do so on a daily basis. But our loving Father hears our prayers and is quick to forgive and remove our sins. Our sins, once scarlet, become white as snow. Every sin brings a penalty, but thankfully the ultimate penalty—death—was paid by Jesus Christ. No matter what the sin, once true, godly repentance has occurred, God forgives it totally.

Does that mean it is better to make mistakes? Not at all. If you can take advice and admonition from parents, family, friends and from God's Word, life will be much easier. But when painful mistakes are made and real repentance occurs, a happy and rewarding life, with a powerful lesson learned, can still be achieved. VT