Forgiving Yourself: A Prospective on Grace and Whimsy

It is Never Too Late to Show Up for Your Re-Creation Story

According Native American folklore, there are four things you cannot take back: the spoken word, a spent arrow, neglected opportunities, and the past.

A Story of Re-creation

I would like the luxury of taking back parts of my past. I have allowed pivotal opportunities to slip away. There are words I would like to take back. While I have not shot any arrows to date, it pains me to know that some of my words have pierced skin and drew blood.  I have sought and received forgiveness from those I hurt. I have felt the healing power of God’s grace. And, I have forgiven myself hundreds of times, hoping the last one will stick. But I am human and something else lingers on—maybe guilt, or regret. Am I not fully embracing the gift of divine grace or is that just another failure? Isn’t it natural to regret mistakes?

Delving into the realm of self-forgiveness and grace, more questions emerge. Is regret just part of the ashes that remain after forgiveness? Is there a second and third act after remorse? What am I missing? Am I harboring a propensity for self-imposed penance, even after forgiveness, rehashing my most remorseful mistakes? It can replay over and over, like a psychological earworm, laden with harsh, accusatory self-admonishments.

Why didn’t I?

Why didn’t I know better?

How could I?

woman looking at sea while sitting on beach
Photo by Pixabay on

Centuries ago, religious extremists would flog themselves bloody with barbed whips, to atone for their sins. We see this repugnant behavior as barbaric yet, we humans often weaponize our shortcomings, taking a switch to our emotional psyches. Some call it ‘beating yourself up’, which is self-defeating. I do not believe that God wants us to be self-defeating. We were made for higher purposes.

I believe our higher selves continually lay out stepping stones that lead toward healing. My spirit was already on that path, searching for an escape valve, a way to release me from a self-imposed emotional bondage.

balancing rock formation
Photo by Tina Nord on

And there it was. The way forward. A door opened and escorted by lighthearted whimsy, I rediscovered grace.
We were spending a few days with friends in beautiful Sarasota, Florida. They suggested a visit to the Marietta Museum of Art and Whimsy. Hmmm. Intriguing name. A short drive later, we were strolling into lush gardens dotted with fanciful art and playful sculptures, some hanging from tree limbs, and others intermeshed with crawling vines. Sunlight flickered through bushy foxtail palms, dancing and tickling over blue cows, pink dragons and red monkeys.

orange whimsy cat

Ribbons of curvy, thick branches, radiating from massive tree trunks, ran throughout the gardens. They undulated up and down and over purple tigers and shimmering butterflies. Tilting my head in varied angles, I felt propelled by a vibrant force of quirky colors and playful abandon. Energy shot through my outstretched arms like electric stars. I felt as though I swallowed up the sun. My spirit twirled me round and round. I imagined myself doing the Julie Andrews spin on top of the Bavarian Alps. My brain tried desperately to hold on to the ride.

This was a pivotal experience for me. Certainly, I have enjoyed beautiful gardens and childlike fantasies before, but this was different.   An Enlivenment. A rearrangement of thought. An Awakening.

My brain erupted into an avalanche of thoughts. Genesis 1:3. Let There Be Light, and there was Light. I thought of The Shema, the Jewish prayer celebrating and thanking God for creation. Spectacular images, shown in the Cosmos series depicting billions of electrons exploding, raced through my mind. And I recalled a verse in Second Timothy that grace given to us by Christ before the beginning of time.* And right there, in all this commotion of my senses, the words grace, light and creation fused together and became inseparable. Time evaporated and I was feeling creation, not as ‘one and done’ event, but as an ongoing, spontaneous, emergence of light. And in that light, created for me, was boundless grace. Grace is ongoing, and my story is ongoing. In that whimsical garden, where yellow mushrooms sprouted like moonbeams, and colors twirled me around like a child’s spinning top, I found my own rebirth, my own big bang.

sky space dark galaxy
Photo by Pixabay on

Show up for Your Own Re-creation Story

When the full spectrum of grace reveals itself, be it through nature, loved ones, music or creative art, there is no room for regrets. Remorse could not live in this empowering environment. Regrets could not metastasize or bore into my core. Consider Peter, one of the Jesus’ early disciples. Following the arrest of Jesus, Peter denied knowing Jesus three times. Imagine the remorse he carried, the three denials that he could not take back. But Peter’s failures were not the end of his story. He chose to be present in his own rebirth, his own creation story. He became the Rock, upon which Jesus would build his church.

What about my continuing story? Still wondering about the threads that weave whimsy, light and grace together, I searched for additional insights.  I soon found I was not a lone voice in this quest. My search found poets, musicians, photographers, artists and writers who channel grace and whimsy.

In his book, Love Does: Discover a Secretly Incredible Life in an Ordinary World, Bob Goff tells his thoughts on God and whimsy:

“Whimsy doesn’t care if you are the driver or the passenger; all that matters is that you are on your way.”

You don’t need a plan; you just need to be present.”

“Everyday God invites us on the same kind of adventure. It’s not a trip where He sends us a rigid itinerary, He simply invites us. God asks what it is He’s made us to love, what it is that captures our attention, what feeds that deep indescribable need of our souls to experience the richness of the world He made. And then, leaning over us, He whispers, “Let’s go do that together . . . And that’s what I want my life to be all about – full of abandon, whimsy, and in love.”

My stepping stones lead me in other directions, too.  I found mother nature’s hand in whimsical art. I joined a group of retirees on a Lifestyle Venture Tour that brought me to Driftwood Beach on Jekyll Island, one of the beautiful barrier islands off the Georgian coast. There, ancient, sun-bleached wood, hardened and preserved by salt water, are on display, like a nouveau art gallery, Again, I marveled at nature’s random whims, using water and wind as her sculpting tools.

sandy art 1
sandy art 2

I also found whimsy closer to home. I have a friend who does whimsy better than anyone else I know. Sandy knows something about imagination that I am just beginning to understand. Her home is sprinkled with fanciful art. And anyone who visits catches her spirit, like a breeze in a flowing windsock.

girl twirling

Whimsy does not mind how long it takes you to arrive. As Bob Goff suggests, you don’t need a plan. You just need to show up.
As I near the closing of this spiritual memoir, I see endless stepping stones laid out for me, pathways to continue my creation story.  And there it is again.   I am feasting my eyes on a large cluster of vivid green leaves climbing along the many branches of my live oak in my own backyard. These vines were not there yesterday. Resurrection Fern, during dry spells, are shriveled and dormant. They typically look dead and are hardly noticeable. But within 24 hours of a rainfall, the vines rebounds into a vibrant, leafy plant, covering the branches with a lush green paintbrush. My lessons from this journey is that I can rebound and sprout new growth even after my darkest hour.
I fail. I have failed. I will fail. There. I have conjugated the present, past and future of my human condition. But my story is ongoing and so is yours. The important thing is to not to miss the next act of your own story. I plan to show up . . . to participant in my own creation story . . . and to twirl.    

creation sunburst

He has saved us and called us with a holy calling, not according to our works, but according to His own purpose and grace, which was given to us in Christ Jesus before time began. (2Timothy 1:9)

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