Just over seventeen years ago, I made a bad decision to get involved with a man who I shouldn’t have. I sacrificed a lot to have a relationship with him. When the consequences came around, I faced them steadfastly, with knowledge that there would be vindication when he married me. But there was never a ring; he cast me out like yesterday’s garbage. He moved on to a different Coast Guard officer, and I went on to civilian life. In the book of Ecclesiastes, Solomon instructs that there is a season for everything. How about a time for humiliation, and a time for vindication?
I have come to realize exactly how much I desire vindication, which led to the realization that the desire stems from nothing more than pride. It was a small thing at work that brought this truth to me. It was an inference, at most, that my conclusions about a situation were false. While I decided against putting up a reactionary defense of my position (score 1 for self-control), I was anxious for those around me to know that I was, in fact, right. In the end, I was glad I didn’t launch an overt defense that would have made me seem bratty. But the real lesson was that I need to leave vindication up to God. There were in this situation, facts in place which vindicated me, and I needed only to sit back and continue doing my job. I shouldn’t have worried myself about it at all, but I didn’t want to take it sitting down!
As I reflected on the lessons of this situation, I realized how much I desired vindication for the mistake all those years ago. The resulting shame and embarrassment had caused me to hide for somewhere around a decade. It wasn’t guilt because I knew God had forgiven me. It was pride; I didn’t want to face the people who knew about it and might judge me for it. Unfortunately, stupid mistakes are just that; by definition, they cannot be justified. Yet I struggle because it feels like my ongoing singleness vindicates him for dumping me.
My anger with God over this situation resolved itself after a few years, when I learned that he had married her (the Anti-Leah). I realized that God had rescued me from making a terrible mistake. This knowledge soothed my heart-break and restored my relationship with God, but it did not heal my injured pride. Our pride doesn’t like being single (unless we find a way to take pride in our independence). Every cast-off asks herself, “What is wrong with me?” It’s a pride thing, and our pride doesn’t like having to answer these questions. What really nags at us is that other people may be thinking the same questions about us. We forget that it is God who has created us and put us in our current position.
In The Pursuit of God, A.W. Tozer points out that we spend a lot of our energy worrying about how others perceive us. He wrote, “The heart’s fierce effort to protect itself from every slight, to shield its touchy honor from the bad opinion of friend and enemy, will never let the mind have rest. Continue this fight through the years and the burden will become intolerable.” Tozer did more than just point out the problem; he gave his prescription: “There is no release from our burden apart from the meekness of Christ. . .The rest He offers is the rest of meekness, the blessed relief which comes when we accept ourselves for what we are and cease to pretend.”
I have reached a point in my life where I am happy with where God has me. I long for more, yet I am content. I see that it is time to stop caring about what other people must think of my situation and my mistakes. I need to let go of this idea of vindication. I was young and stupid, and now I have matured and learned from my mistakes. I need to carve from my heart what remains of this pride, that for so long, had me hiding in embarrassment. It seems silly that after so many years, I have to keep reminding myself that what matters is how God sees me. I praise Him because when He looks on me, He sees the righteousness of Christ! It isn’t vindication that is important, but redemption, and God has redeemed all of my sinful errors. God’s redemption is plentiful, but it is up to me to live my life as one who has been redeemed.
If you, O LORD, should mark iniquities, O Lord, who could stand? But with you, there is forgiveness, That you may be feared. O Israel, hope in the LORD! For with the LORD there is steadfast love, And with him is plentiful redemption.
Psalm 130:4, 5, & 7