“I am a sinner.”
From St. Paul to Pope Francis, this is perhaps the most common Christian identity. It is mine. It is the way I must necessarily identify myself in order to receive the crown of salvation offered to me by my Savior.
Humility is the crown jewel.
Tomes and millennia have been spent helping the Christian better live out the fundamental gospel truth—we are all sinners in need of the Savior.
Beginning in the 4th century with the desert Fathers and developed further in the West, we find a summary listing of our concupiscence in the Seven Deadly Sins. These sins are: lust, gluttony, greed, sloth, wrath, envy, and pride.
For me, understanding sin is essential to understanding my need for forgiveness.
Some of the very best examinations of conscience that I have ever employed for Confession derive from this list. Years of self-reflection, using these as my guideposts, have revealed to me the root of my many sins and temptations.
More often than not, I think of my crown being off kilter by way of my own sinfulness. And, trust me, I have miles of tracks in and out of the Confessional to show for it. But, an additional help for me in straightening the crown Jesus has placed on my head has been an awareness not just of my sinfulness but also of my woundedness.
So, I also have a second list.
This is a different list, but it has brought as many internal convictions and revelations as the first. It is the list of the 7 Deadly Wounds, as articulated by Dr. Bob Schuchts of the John Paul II Healing Center.
I hate the thought of being a victim. This prideful and vain girl doesn’t like to admit that people can hurt her. But, this isn’t so much victim mentality as it is plain human reality. It isn’t about blame. . .it’s about healing. And, it isn’t about excuses, it’s about making sense of things.
My woundedness and my sinfulness walk hand in hand.
As they say, “Hurt people, hurt people.” The cycle is real. And it is formative. As I stare down my sins, even from decades away, I see in their marrow a lesion of hurt. Tiny ones, traumatic ones. . .hurts that make my heart sick and my soul weak.
Hurts like abandonment, rejection, hopelessness, powerlessness, confusion, fear, and shame become chronic wounds that can fester to the point of spiritual gangrene. These wounds cause us to cut off parts of our hearts. They hinder wholeness if they are ignored, neglected or denied.
The consequence for me is a crown that continues to slip, even as I repent of my sin. I have some wounds that need tending. . .
I believe that I am alone—that nobody sees me unless I show off, so I white knuckle achievement and perfectionism. If I keep their attention, they won’t ignore me or leave me. (abandonment)
I believe that my lovableness is a function of pleasing or serving others. I believed what he said about me. I trusted her judgment when she left me out. I play these scenes on a loop in my head. (rejection)
I believe that nothing can change my opinion of myself. At times, my only hope is in the opinions of others—and devastatingly God’s opinion isn’t always first among them. (hopelessness)
I believe that I am weak when things are out of my control. I feel cornered, exposed, and defensive even in confessing my sin. (powerlessness)
I believe the stories I tell myself about how others hear me or see me, regardless of the facts or even evidence to the contrary. (confusion)
I believe that people want to hurt me or at least don’t notice or care very much if I am hurting. And I even know how sad that sounds. I live afraid. I sometimes drown in the anxiety of the next time the cross will get too heavy or my heart will be broken. (fear)
I believe that I am unimportant and unworthy because of what I look like, what I did, or how I was treated. (shame)
These wounds are not all gone. Not yet. But, there is unspeakable peace in growing in the truth that the same Savior who can forgive my sins can heal my wounds and make me whole.