A while back a girlfriend and I were sharing some stories from our past with one another. We alternately giggled and shuddered at our adventures of days gone by, and at the end of our conversation we agreed we were grateful we are who we are today and not who we once were. We no longer resembled the people we used to be. Those parts of our lives were past history.
Thank. The. Lord.
In case you didn’t know it, I have past. Some of it is nice and shiny and some of it I am not very proud of. Which is likely true for all of us, at least if we are honest with ourselves. Today when someone asks, “How are you?” I reply, “Better than I deserve!” Which can throw people for a loop! This elicits all types of responses such as, “Oh, you deserve good things” or “Why would you say that?” or “Well, you may not, but I deserve good things.” Whatever the reply, mine is always the same, “I was wicked when I was young.” That’s the truth, even though I could not or would not recognize it at the time. Just as true, is the fact I am no longer who I used to be, that person is dead and gone. Past history, in the rear-view mirror. Those are the earlier chapters in the story of my life and today’s chapters are being written as the new creation I have become in Jesus Christ. My hope for those who knew me then, in my wicked days, is that they get to know the new me; the real me. The person God created me to be.
However, I wouldn’t be who I am today without being the person I used to be, even if that wasn’t the best version of myself. Today my worst past history is my best asset because it created my need to be redeemed by Jesus Christ.
Yes, you read that right. My worst past history is my best asset because it created my need to be redeemed by Christ.
Redeemed is a churchy word for rescued or saved. You may be asking yourself; how can you make such a statement? What do you mean your worst past history is your best asset?! I can say that truthfully because I have decided to take God at his Word and accept the grace and forgiveness, he offers me. Which is what being born again is all about. Dying to my old sinful self, rising to new life in Christ. This is the beginning place for clearing out the garbage of my past and moving toward living a joyous, happy and free life where my identity comes from Christ, not from me. The churchy words for this process are confession and repentance. Repentance is turning back to God and admitting he knows what is best for me. Confession means I admit the rotten things of my past. Then and only then does my past history cease to hold power over me. And then, and only then, can he use it all to draw other lost folks back to himself. It is really quite remarkable, this Gospel of Jesus Christ, this good news.
Unfortunately, I used to hit a snag at this, the very best part. Instead of accepting God’s grace and forgiveness, I chose to hang on to it and let it rot me through with the disease of shame and guilt. The ugly stuff of my past – the churchy word here is sin- used to keep me trapped because I thought if it saw the light of day, people and God would think less of me. With God’s help, I now understand what other people think of me is none of my business. If I try to make it my business, I proceed to hop on the never-ending merry go round ride of “people pleasing”. Been there, done that, ain’t going back. God, on the other hand, already knows what I’ve done, was with me while I was doing it, and loved me through it. And if I ask, he forgives me. He patiently waits for me to recognize my train wreck attempts at running the universe. He waits patiently for my return back to him. And when I do, he runs at me arms open wide. You see, God has forgiven and forgotten my past, therefore so can I.
I came to Jesus and was baptized at the ripe old age of eight, and promptly abandoned and rebelled against him much of my life. I have plenty of dirty laundry, some of which you’ve already read about. Many of those are the same stories that made my friend and I laugh and cry. After I got married and had kids, I swung back to being less wicked (or so I thought) and going to church. Over time I developed a pretty good case of the “holier than thou’s”. I thought that being a Christian meant you put your butt in a pew on Sunday and lived as a “good person” who believed in God while doing whatever I wanted the rest of the week. Well that’s stinking thinking. What exactly does “good” mean and who decides? How good is good enough? Are 999,999 good deeds enough? Or does it mean I am one good deed short, and when I die St. Peter meets me at the Pearly Gates saying, “Sorry, you don’t qualify, you needed one million. No get out of jail free card for you.” I was deceived into thinking I am not as bad as…you fill in the name. And At least I don’t… you fill in the action. Truth is I am as bad as… you fill in the name and I did… you fill in the action. As good as I might like to think I am, I am still stained by sin. But when I claim Christ as my Savior and standard, I claim him as the LORD of my life. Which, in layman’s terms, means he’s the Boss. With a capital B. This is incredibly costly; in fact, it costs me living my life on my terms. Dying to myself is painful and frankly, some days, it’s a struggle and I’d just rather not! He warned me to count the cost before following.
Here’s the thing, my worst stuff is transformed by God, not by me, into my best stuff because he uses my worst stuff, the wickedness he redeemed me from, to bring other lost and hurting people back into the right relationship with him through Christ. I used to try to be perfect, I call myself a recovering perfectionist and I am really glad I am no longer trying to be perfect. Because most people can’t relate to perfect. But they can relate to falling short of the mark, making mistakes, being hurt, hurting others and the like. That’s where who I used to be comes in handy. They see who I am today, not perfect, but standing on solid ground by obeying The Boss. They see the joy and freedom I have and how I am no longer a victim of my past, what I have done or what’s been done to me. They see me freed of the chains of my past and they want what I have and been so freely given.
And that brings hope to hurting souls.
My job is to love people and to point them to Jesus, not to fix them. That is his job. And most of the time, sharing my past history with others who are struggling is just the right medicine.
The churchy word for this is called Christianity. God, through Jesus Christ, takes those people who choose to give up their lives to gain their lives by following him; and he frees them from shame, guilt, pride, and breaks the chains of sin. You see Jesus’ worst thing is our best thing. The worst thing that ever happened to Jesus was to die a criminal’s death on the cross, because the sin he bore was mine. And yours. And folks, that past history, right alongside his resurrection, is the best thing that ever happened to this wicked old girl and this wicked old world.
If God does that with and though his one and only perfect Son, imagine what he can do with and through us!
Which gives us lots of reasons to:
Be joy filled always,