When I was a teenager, I believed I needed to punish myself a little (or a lot) if I messed up. Even within the Christian context of grace, I didn’t know I got a free pass on self-inflicted punishment. So I paid my dues, groveling the proper amount or feeling bad for a certain amount of time, before I’d allow myself to feel good and close to God. I didn’t whip myself like medieval priests, but I couldn’t hold my head high either. For all those years in church, I hadn’t really heard the gospel. I’d heard justice, not mercy.

So when I talked with my teenager about a choice they felt bad about, I was clear. “Because of Jesus, you don’t have to feel bad about this for any amount of time. It was a mistake and mistakes are normal for humans. Sometimes there are natural consequences, sometimes you can work to make things right, but you can always forgive yourself right away because God does. You can get right back up and try again because of grace.”

Because of Jesus, you don’t have to feel bad about this for any amount of time.

This still feels audacious to me. Nothing? I don’t have to pay anything? How can God be pleased with me right after I mess up? How can I believe I live in the sunshine of Her smile when I did something mean a few minutes ago? When I’ve hurt another human I know She loves? Because She knew I would do that and all the other things I’ve done when She first imagined me. She loved me then and loves me now. None of my antics surprise Her. She knows why I do things that don’t even make sense to me. And She’s ready to help me do something new.

Glennon Doyle calls this, “forever tries.” We get to try again and again forever because of grace.

…though the righteous fall seven times, they rise again.
Proverbs 24:16 NIV

But this I call to mind,
and therefore I have hope:
The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases;
his mercies never come to an end;
they are new every morning;
great is your faithfulness.
“The Lord is my portion,” says my soul,
“therefore I will hope in him.”
The Lord is good to those who wait for him,
to the soul who seeks him.
26 It is good that one should wait quietly
for the salvation of the Lord.
Lamentations 3: 21-26 ESV

The good news is no punishment. No groveling. Zero time slinking around, wishing God wanted us back in Her circle of light. Her circle of light is over us. Her banner over us is love and She’s not taking it down every other minute. She’s chosen us and we’ve chosen Her. No failure on our part will ever shut us out in the darkness again. Her mercies are new every morning so we have forever tries.