As we begin the month of March, we will be focusing on Spring and everything that it represents- to include, but not limited to: spring cleaning, Spring training, exercise, conditioning, March Madness, and the general movement from real and metaphorical “winters” into a new season.
Life is full of seasons. Hopefully, if we pay attention, each one we go through prepares, equips, or trains us to handle the next. It’s unclear as to who the author of this quote is, but it has always resonated with me…”Life is like photography, we use the negatives to develop.” Some seasons of life seem to be easy, fun, relaxing, bursting with joy and adventure; but, some of the greatest character developments I have experienced in my life have come from those that were the most dark, depressing, and traumatic. When I decided to recommit myself fully to Jesus and to stop engaging in self-destructive activities and behaviors, I had a lot of forgiving and processing to do. The choices I had made, the people that I had hurt, and the words I could never take back were, at first, ever-ready material the enemy would use to guilt me back into despair. It wasn’t until I began to find my identity totally in Jesus that I understood that my past had zero influence over the powerful future plans that he had for me (Jer 29:11). Starting this new chapter made it tempting to convince myself that all of the hopelessness and sadness that I had been through was completely erased and never to be thought of again. But there is a subtle lie in this type of thinking.
The Word says we are conquerers and overcomers by the blood of the Lamb and the words of our testimony (Rev 12:11). Our testimony (or story) is powerful. This word comes from the greek “μαρτυρία” (martyria- mär-tü-rē’-ä) which means to testify (i.e. before a judge). When we break it down one more time, we get the word for Matrtyr- “μάρτυς” (martys- mä’r-tüs) which means ‘a witness’ or “those who after his example have proved the strength and genuineness of their faith in Christ by undergoing a violent death.” Like a soldier who dies in honor serving their country shows the “strength and genuineness” of their commitment, these testimonies empower us to live without fear, in faith, and with authority and power. The only reason for our need to try to suppress or ‘delete’ the issues of our past is because of the presence of shame. When we realize our identities in Christ, these events are still part of our stories, but the shame, anger, hurt, bitterness, and hatred that are associated with them can be redeemed and obliterated. God says, “I will be merciful regarding their wrong and evil deeds, and I will never again remember their sins” (Heb 8:12). God chooses to extend mercy and to give us grace; he chooses not to remember the offensive and scandalous things we have done.
“So, you’re saying that God doesn’t remember my past, but I still should?” I am saying that God sees those who commit themselves fully to Him as blameless; they are seen through Jesus who is perfect. Because of His grace, we can escape the shameful and embarrassing emotion that we once associated with the choices of our past because we become “free from ourselves” (John 8:36). We can use the memories that still exist to show His overwhelming saving power by telling our story and speaking from a place of empowerment and new life. The reality is that we are never the only ones who have gone through something hard, no matter how specific we think it may be. There are people who have gone through similar things and share those specific mistakes or experiences, but have overcome the prison of guilt and shame that once served as “false power” over their lives. When we share our stories with others, there is an opportunity for them to experience healing from hurtful and traumatic memories and choices. His intervention into our story matters. Your whole story matters!
There is no death, sorrow, crying, or pain in Heaven, “all these things are gone forever” (Rev 21:4). So, while we are here on Earth, with our stories stripped of shame, we can use the overcoming of the events of our past to proclaim the power of His transformative love and bring Him glory!