If you know me from ten years (or more) ago. I probably owe you and apology.
John 4:18-19, 28-29
I think it's time we have a talk about the past. More specifically, our own pasts. Even more specifically, MY own past.
I am currently on my second marriage. For several bumbling years, I pretty much screwed my first marriage up completely. Now, marriage is a team sport. And, believe me, there was all kinds of teamwork going on, and between both of us, we shot that gig to hell.
Soaking in mental illness, an eating disorder, and desperation, I did things that I never thought I'd ever do. I said things that I never thought I'd say, and I treated those around me like garbage. It's a miracle that I have any friends left. In fact most of them left for a while, and I can't blame them one bit. I was a wreck.
Ten years ago, almost exactly, I was basically a junkie sleeping in my car with my dog. I had a home, but for a multitude of reasons, I wasn't living there. In a span of about 3 months, I lost my job, my marriage, my friends, my home, and my will to live. I ended up in rehab, trying to piece my life together. It was there that I faced some harsh, disgusting realities. I fought some hard demons, and learned some difficult truth. If I wanted my life to be different, I had to do something different. As I said before, "You can feel better, or you can heal."
There is so much that I am ashamed of about my past. So much so that literally two people in the world know what happened: my current husband, and my dog. And, God willing, that's really all anyone else needs to know.
What you DO need to know is that I'm a different person than I was 10 years ago. I'm also willing to bet that YOU are, too.
Here's the good news: everyone has a past. Paul wasn't kidding when he said "Of all of the sinners, I am the worst." This man hunted and killed Jews like a one-man vigilante holocaust. And he was proud of it; he thought he was doing God a favor. Until God literally stopped him in his tracks, Paul's destructive behavior would have continued.
So would mine.
Why then, do we expect differently from other people? Why do we expect anyone who runs for public office to have a sparkling clean record? They never said anything humiliating. Ever. Most of these people are in their 50's and 60's - from an era of sheer revolt, racism, and debauchery. And we expect them to be glistening in perfection. Remember the hell we gave Bill Clinton about smoking a joint?! While he was in college?! In the sixties?!!
The key here is repentance. The difference is that I'm dedicated to being a godly wife, a loving mother, and an encouragement to those around me. The difference is night and day, and I can honestly say I never want to go back.
How many times have Christians done this - hold someone's past against them while forgetting our own skeletons? How many times have we judged someone on who they are right now - while forgetting who we used to be? I wonder if the early Christians looked at Paul the same way - knowing who he was even a few short years before he went into ministry. He went on to write 2/3 of the New Testament, so hopefully someone forgave him. It doesn't make his actions excusable. But God used him as a voice anyway.
The other good news is that God will use you the same way, regardless of your past. God doesn't shame you; he'll respect your privacy. God won't embarrass you in front of anyone. But He can, and will, take what you've learned, experienced, and totally screwed up - and use it to create something you'd never see coming.
Those friends that stuck with me for all the things? Betcha NONE of them saw my life ending up the way it is now. I didn't see it coming either, honestly. Sure glad, though. Even in the messy, exhausted, frenzied pace that we're in, it seems, nothing is better. I don't miss any part of who I was or who I used to be.
When I see an old friend, or even just an acquaintance on facebook, there's always an awkward pause. I wonder what they remember about me. I wonder what rumors and gossip got there before I did.
But honestly, you can think what you will. You can say what you will. I don't have to impress you, or even make you believe me.