Thesis 20: The Penalties That Remain

This post is part of a series of meditations on each of Luther's "95 Theses." You can view all posts in the series here.
20. Therefore by "full remission of all penalties" the pope means not actually "of all," but only of those imposed by himself.
There are penalties we leave on our souls that only we are capable of remitting. There are ways we allow ourselves to speak to ourselves absent of grace. There are modes of living which we embrace so long that we convince ourselves that we are no longer worthy of forgiveness. These modes become entrenched so deeply that we walk in these trenches for years, unable to see above the dirt of the rim.

One of the reasons I probably don't pray as often as I should is that I am terrified of what I'll discover.

I feel like if I spend too much time in silence that I'll see all the hideous bullshit that I manage to cover up from myself by filling up the gaps in my calendar with mindless "doing." I cover up this same stuff from others with snark and humor. That doesn't make it go away. If I sit with God long enough to sink into quietness, to fully open up, to fully embrace myself being embraced, I always imagine that I will deplore what I see. Because I do not forgive myself of things easily.

A friend told me recently that he finds it interesting to be seeking a community of believers who are comfortable asking each other "How is it with your soul?" when I never seem to invite that question to be asked of me.

Perhaps I'm not alone in this. Perhaps you too have sought the forgiveness of others, received it, and felt the freedom that this brings, the utter breaking of chains into your true self. A reset button on your emotions. But when it comes to how you think of yourself, the penalties remain unremitted.

Sometimes the pieces are put together in such a haphazard or fragile or lazy or unrealistic fashion that it takes full disassembly before reassembly can occur at all. And isn't that what the questions we ask as faithful people are supposed to do, break us down yet again in order to rebuild us again, always better, always tighter, always newer as we find new answers?

May we learn to get to the right questions.
Original image obtained here. Used under Creative Commons license.


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