Studies in attachment reveal that it’s the repair of breaks in attachment, not their absence, that builds security and solidifies a child’s sense of being loved and lovable. Rupture and repair is an expected and necessary feature of all enduring relationships. In fact, even people like myself, who grew up with an insecure attachment pattern, can go on to form lasting love bonds by making sense of our painful developmental years.

Similarly, it isn’t the absence of sin that deepens our capacity for love, but sin itself is the way God’s love enters our hearts. In our brokenness we cry out for help, we open our hearts to God’s love so that as we are forgiven, we can also forgive ourselves and extend forgiveness to others. Sin is a rupture in relationship–with God, with ourselves, with each other.  Forgiveness is the way love repairs the rupture.

Sin teaches us about love.

There’s a story about a female “sinner” massaging Jesus’ feet with oil, crying tears of love over him and breaking all the rules of polite dinner parties. Jesus welcomes her affection and even turns it into a lesson on love and forgiveness. Speaking to the well respected host who isn’t  identified as a sinner in the story, Jesus says:

“Her sins, which are many, are forgiven for she loved much, but he who is forgiven little, loves little.”

In my teenage and young adult years I strongly identified with this woman. While the more respectable church goers didn’t reveal blatant struggles with sin, I regularly showed up requesting prayer for my struggles with substance use, misuse and abuse. Like the apostle Paul,who didn’t understand himself because he didn’t do the good he wanted but did the very thing he hated, I too felt like the chief sinner amongst my peers.

During the years when sin obscured my capacity to behave in a  respectable, church going, lady like manner, I still knew that God loved me. I knew that there was nothing I could do to make God love me more and nothing I could do to make God love me less. Each fall into sin became an opportunity to open to love.

Learning to receive forgiveness for the behavioral sins of my early years prepared me to work with myself and others on the more complex and entrenched character defects, deficits and defenses that “respectable” people struggle with: greed, self-righteousness, insecurity, fear, envy, jealousy, carelessness with words and humor, procrastination…to name a few.

I’m pretty sure that my musings on sin, love and forgiveness don’t line up very well with what the Catholic Church taught me or what I learned in seminary. But it’s the way I’ve made sense of what I read in the Bible in light of my personal experience, research &  training and work with others.

I’m hopeful that my story will help you access compassion for your “failures” and the “failures” of others. I’m hopeful that it will help you make sense of your struggles with sin.  I’m hopeful that it will help you open your heart more widely to God’s forgiveness so that you will become a great lover of God, yourself and your neighbors.

She who is forgiven much, loves much.

May it be so.