I grunted as I pulled myself further up the cliff. I reached up for my next handhold, but the rock loosened and I lost my grip. I felt my other hand sweating and slipping away, and I started to panic.
I intentionally slowed my breathing and my body. With forced calm, I reached to my side and grabbed a different rock, one very close to my loose hand. I secured myself, and exhaled with relief.
I took a few more breaths to center myself, then continued the climb. Five minutes later, I reached the top of the cliff. With hands on knees, I caught my breath.
A proud smile slowly crept over my face as I realized what I had done. I almost jumped for joy, but it seemed inappropriate given the solemnity of the place I had arrived.
I raised my head up and gazed upon the goal of my climb. Golgotha. Three crosses hung not more than 300 yards away.
I saw my Jesus, bloody and broken and nearly dying. I ran to the cross, bowed down and started crying:
Jesus, I know I promised to live a holy life. I messed up again. I let my anger get the best of me. I have used profane words, a lot. I have spent far too much time watching TV, and far too little time reading your Word and praying. Can you forgive me?
I looked to Jesus, but He remained silent. Tears streamed down my face, as I took His silence for judgment. As I started to despair, I felt a hand on my shoulder. Peace overwhelmed my senses.Then my companion spoke and I knew it was my heavenly Father speaking to me:
Son, it is you who are the harshest judge here. Turn around and lift up your head. See the broad path to the cross. There was no need for you to endanger your life by climbing the mountain to reach the cross and seek forgiveness. The path is wide, the slope is simple, and you need not travel alone. Forgiveness is yours.
When I awoke from this dream today, I became aware of how easily I dismiss the gift of grace. I often give lip service to the unmerited favor of God, but only until I mess up.
Then I believe it is my job to work my way back to Jesus, through my own sweat, putting my own life at risk, in order to throw my exhausted self at the foot of the cross and beg for another chance.
In these moments, I forget the final triumph Jesus accomplished in His death and resurrection. His sacrifice was not only for my past sins, but for my future sins.
Lord, thanks for using your unending creativity to draw me back to this simple truth—forgiveness is never earned, period.