This post is a re-run of a post from last December. It's been on my mind, so I thought I would share it again. It is a bit rough, but usually when I write there is a lot of distraction in my house, so concentration doesn't come easy :)
I am processing through something I heard this weekend at the LIFE retreat. Tricia Gunn referred to the passage in Luke 7 (it's in other places, too), where the "sinful woman" anoints Jesus. She breaks open a very expensive - like a years' wages expensive - jar of perfume and washes His feet with it. What Tricia said about this has stuck in my mind - she said "the money she earned to buy this perfume, she earned lying on her back." And then she basically said that every time she gave herself to a man she gave away a piece of herself, but when she poured out what she had on Jesus, she was restored. He knew what she was and He knew how she got that perfume, but He did not turn her away or turn from her. In fact, He holds her up as an example and says that everywhere the gospel is preached, her story would also be told.
I have found it to be true that the very things I have done in my past that have caused me shame are also the things that, when brought to light and brought before the throne of God, have given me a greater sense of love and acceptance. As long as we try to hide ourselves from God and cover our shame, it is as though we have made camp in a garbage dump. We sit huddled with the mess we've found ourselves in. The only way to be free of something is to give it to someone else. It's like the clutter I am constantly battling to be rid of - I can hang onto it, or I can give it to Goodwill. Even better I can give it to the garbage collectors. But a decision has to be made...hello, it's GARBAGE!
And the same goes for the junk in our soul (mind and emotions). If we want to be rid of guilt and shame or anger or whatever garbage we live with every day, we have to give it to someone else...and that someone isn't your spouse or kids because they can't handle your junk, either. God the Father is the one who stands ready, and really He has already taken it. Once you have chosen to belong to Him - and it is a choice and anyone can make that choice - the only power the past has over you is the power you give it.
Several months ago God showed me that I had been hiding from Him. Even though I knew in my mind that I was forgiven, I still felt a "yuck" that I couldn't shake and so I tried to hide, as though one could hide from Him. It not only blocked that relationship, but it was blocking other relationships - with Dave, with friends, etc. And that was the power my past had over me. I gave it the power to keep me in shame, until, in a moment of time, God put His finger on it and said, "That's not who you are. I have given you a new name." I had to bring it to Him, be honest about what I had done, about who I had been, and let Him speak the truth to me. It was life-changing. You can do that, too...and you don't have to sit in the dumpster as long as I did.
The cool thing is that what I feared - being exposed - was exactly what I needed to be free. And it is what He has used to make me a better servant to people. It drives me to love others. It moves me with compassion. Last night I saw "The Voyage of the Dawn Treader." Without too much background, because this post is long enough already, a boy named Eustace (how horrible for him) had been turned into a dragon. It happened because he gave in to a temptation, even though he had been told temptation was coming...he was weak and so he gave in. There was nothing he could do on his own to change.
In that disappointing state, feeling stuck and feeling sorrow for where he ended up, his destiny to do extraordinary things had not changed. In fact it was exactly because of what he had done, and because he was a dragon that could fly, that he was able to be in a position to be the hero in the story and be used to put all things right. Did that mean what he did was okay? No. Why, then? Because he came to a place of repentance (he turned away from sin toward God). When he met Aslan face to face, suffering the consequences of his sin, he was "healed." In the movie Aslan drew in the sand with His paw and roared a giant lion roar. The dragon scales were blown off and Eustace became a boy again. He became what he always was...the boy that was inside the dragon, but couldn't get free on his own.
My mind instantly went to the story in the gospels of the woman caught in an adulterous situation. Short and sweet, the woman was dragged out, Jesus drew in the sand and said he who is without sin can cast the first stone. No one hung around to condemn her, and He said, "I don't condemn you either, go and sin no more." That's what happened to Eustace. He was confronted by the savior, in his sin...he was caught red-handed, so to speak...no hiding it...and was healed and restored. And his destiny had not changed. He could still be great in the kingdom.
God can build off of your past, whatever it is, whether it's things you did or things other people did to you. You can't change the past, but He can make your foundation strong, building on those things, IF you bring it all to Him. He starts where you are, not where you "should" be. He can take garbage and make it treasure, but we have to choose that. Choose it. Please. There is nothing like being seen for who you really are and knowing that you are loved and cherished, despite all.
** One detail I left out when I wrote this is that I was at a church retreat when I saw that I had been living in a constant feeling of shame. For several years I had wanted to be water baptized (we fully immerse at our church), but hadn't done it yet, primarily because I was already baptized (sprinkled) when I was 12 and I felt like I would be discounting that. Or that people would assume I hadn't been a Christian before. But on this day I knew I needed to do it...it was a sign of a fresh start for me. And it was life-changing. I cannot explain it, but it's as if something was actually washed away in that water, and I have been different ever since. This Wednesday night, at our first Wednesday service, we are offering water baptism. If you've got baggage, had baggage, if you've been thinking you'd like to make a fresh start or you've just never done it before, then do it! Bring some extra clothes and don't think twice! You will not regret it.