Ephesians 2:4-7 (AMP)
But God, being [so very] rich in mercy, because of His great and wonderful love with which He loved us, even when we were [spiritually] dead and separated from Him because of our sins, He made us [spiritually] alive together with Christ (for by His grace—His undeserved favor and mercy—you have been saved from God’s judgment). And He raised us up together with Him [when we believed], and seated us with Him in the heavenly places, [because we are] in Christ Jesus, [and He did this] so that in the ages to come He might [clearly] show the immeasurable and unsurpassed riches of His grace in [His] kindness toward us in Christ Jesus [by providing for our redemption].
Everyone has an idea of what life is supposed to be like. We grow up with an image in our head of what we will be or what we will do with future plans that are never to go through hard times, be brokenhearted or suffer in any way. That is never part of the plan but somehow seems to find us. My troubles may not be like yours. Though our lives may be similar everyone chooses a path so the outcomes of this adventure called life may be very, very different.
Cleaning out my closet a while back, I found boxes and boxes of old picture albums, as well as loose photographs that had not found a home. A box of old black and white ones yellowed with age sat amongst them as well. Looking through all of them now took me back through the past which sometimes for me is very difficult. I do not particularly care to go there while my children are fascinated and full of questions. Being far from perfect, I would rather keep them in a box then have to explain the events of each day. In the midst of the pile of amassed photos was one of the three older children in Christmas clothes, our oldest son has a ridiculously huge smile on his face which only I know was hysterical laughter after a barrage of tears. He didn’t want to get his picture taken with his siblings. He didn’t care for his role as big brother. My younger son who was the quiet, calm and complacent of the three had decided that he didn’t want his picture taken at all and kept trying to climb off the table in the studio. Finally our daughter as precious as she looks didn’t want to be put down that day and wouldn’t cooperate either. It is the perfect picture but the events of the day so traumatic, I relive them every time I look at it. My life was not the image that I portrayed in the picture. Perhaps the kids were just acting out real life. My marriage was crumbling and the carefully constructed façade meant to fool the world was about to completely fall apart. When I arrived at the car after attempting to preview the “perfect” pictures, I fell apart. My youngest wanted out of her exquisite but very uncomfortable dress so badly I ripped it helping her out. My boys were strapped in their car seats crying as I yelled over them. Mommy meltdown at its best. I sat in my minivan and sobbed for what seemed like forever. The picture is beautiful but my life was a mess.
Everyone has a past who has lived more than a day. Each moment is made special and what we do with it is part of the freedom given to us by God. Whether saved or not, you have been given the liberty to live each day as you see fit whether in the Light of His Love or remaining in the darkness of this world. God loves us. He wants our love. Love does not force its affection on another but waits for them to come. This is where God’s Rich Mercy comes in to play in our everyday life. It says that in Jesus Christ we are made alive in Him and seated with Him in the Heavenly Places. Sometimes I forget that grace allows my mess to become a message so to speak. I am not the person in those pictures anymore. It takes a Christ-Angled view to look to the future even when sometimes I fall back into memories of days gone by. The enemy would like nothing more for me to live there and forfeit the future that my True Love has given me. He wants me to remember who I was rather than who I am becoming day by day. I am not defined by my failures. It is by faith I discover who I really am. You cannot see that in a picture. God sees it in our heart.
2 Corinthians 5:16-17 (AMP)
So from now on we regard no one from a human point of view [according to worldly standards and values]. Though we have known Christ from a human point of view, now we no longer know Him in this way. Therefore if anyone is in Christ [that is, grafted in, joined to Him by faith in Him as Savior], he is a new creature [reborn and renewed by the Holy Spirit]; the old things [the previous moral and spiritual condition] have passed away. Behold, new things have come [because spiritual awakening brings a new life].
One might think that once you are saved, there will be no more regret or past life to hold on to. But our human nature keeps a tight grip on the past because it has no future. There is no place for my sinful woman in the new creation that Christ is making. New things are coming with each brand new day that will require a sacrifice of self to hold on to. Do you want a new life? I do.
This week I will once again make the journey to Gainesville, Florida. Walking the familiar halls of Shands Hospital, it’s a love/hate relationship. I have not been there in more than a year. Our son attends college there which allowed him to continue his education while battling cancer. Definitely a blessing all the way, as his young life was not totally interrupted. The people in that place have cared for our son with love and compassion beyond their professional responsibility. We have made so many friends both on staff and also along in the fight. I cannot help but be reminded of the last four years in this journey back. I don’t want to go back. I don’t want to remember. Our son came home last weekend for a visit. His body has recovered miraculously from five rounds of intense chemotherapy, maximum dose radiation, a bone marrow transplant, not to mention countless biopsies and other procedures. There are still some battle scars that haunt me. I have many pictures that I have posted along the way from the first night to the other night right before he went back home. I want to put it all together to mark the journey of faith and hope to a miracle. I do. I hate to look at them. I hate to remember. I don’t ever want to go back. I want to pretend like it never happened. Where is the testimony in that? What potential lies in forgetting all the details of the past? The potential of our pain in the past is to glorify God in the future. He will heal us. He will deliver us. He will restore us. He will renew us. We must only trust Him and keep our eyes on Jesus so in the not-so-distant future we can point to Jesus and say, “Look what the Lord has done!” Remember, God doesn’t save our tears for nothing!
How do we in our mere human design move from death to life without any trauma? How do we sacrifice our old nature to secure the new one without pain along the way? You don’t. What we have to hold on to in each memory is the revelation that God did what He promised. As I look back over time, and it has taken a long time, I am beginning to see the Hand of God moving in my rebellion. The Lord promises to make good out of every detail of our life when we step into His Great Love and choose to live there. (Romans 8:28) In such a place, we surrender the circumstances and consequences of sin to the miraculous overtures of grace that take even the tiniest thing and make it right. This takes time. It is built from our past. We are not supposed to live there as we have been elevated to a new position with our Lord – Jesus Christ. But how will we ever see what the Lord is doing if we are unwilling to overcome the potential embarrassment or potential pain to see Him working in every detail of our life. Our past has a purpose. Every single moment that we breathe has the potential to bring Glory to the Living God even those in old photographs we don’t want to relive or even see.
Hebrews 12:11-13 (AMP)
For the time being no discipline brings joy, but seems sad and painful; yet to those who have been trained by it, afterwards it yields the peaceful fruit of righteousness [right standing with God and a lifestyle and attitude that seeks conformity to God’s will and purpose]. So then, strengthen hands that are weak and knees that tremble.
Cut through and make smooth, straight paths for your feet [that are safe and go in the right direction], so that the leg which is lame may not be put out of joint, but rather may be healed.
The trick is not reliving the past but looking back to see the future. We can use our past in the future as long as we do not return to it. I do not fear cancer. I do not worry about our son’s scans anymore. I mean really…what is the worst thing that anyone can say? I’m sorry but it’s cancer? Seriously, been there, done that and have seen the Hand of God miraculously and completed save, heal and deliver our son. No, the sacrifice of the life I had designed in my head was laid on the altar to be burned. I thought the past was over. All the bad things were gone. Human expectation can cause us to build and construct expectation based on what we think our life will be like and what we think we should do. It’s human nature. When our world comes tumbling down around us, it is a traumatic event. God knows that. He gave His Son to give us a brand new life because the old one was leading nowhere. We were dying day by day. We still die every day… in our flesh. As it is burned away, our human being is challenged to survive in the midst of vast destruction as we are completely undone in Jesus Christ to be remade into the person who God created us to be in the first place. It is worth it. But that doesn’t mean it is without pain and brokenness along the way. God’s love for us as a Father will not allow us to continue to live a substandard life if we are crying out for something more. He must help us. He is our Father. His Love is always reaching for us.
If a broken bone does not heal properly, doctors will break the bone surgically and reset it for better results. It is probably safe to say that the first time the bone was fractured that it was through a traumatic event. The pain was excruciating. Someone had to go find help to fix the problem. But when the doctor decided to make it better, it was a different experience altogether. The patient was asleep for the entire procedure or at least numbed up really well to feel no pain. They were in a clean and sterile environment with nurses catering to their needs in the process. The only thing that may not have been different was the fear associated with the procedure. I think one of the biggest tragedies in the church today is the lack of discipleship. Many Christians are led to believe that following Christ detours us from the pains of life and everything will be hunky dory all day long. Who wants to hear that there will still be problems, pain and struggles in life? I do. If those are the things required to produce a stronger connection to Jesus Christ so be it. I have an unfair advantage that I long to share with others. It is okay to be broken – you will be made new. It is okay to reach the end of your faith because God wants to give you more and stronger faith than ever before. No one has it all together despite their best effort to make you think so. We cannot be concerned about others like that. We are called to a life of loving others not comparing our life to theirs. I wish I could learn this lesson. I am still trying. God is renewing me day by day. He has done so much, but how much more that there is to accomplish in me. Layer by layer, God peels back each piece of my life like a chef opens an onion. There will be tears but in the end God is creating a masterpiece.
Ephesians 2:8-10 (AMP)
For it is by grace [God’s remarkable compassion and favor drawing you to Christ] that you have been saved [actually delivered from judgment and given eternal life] through faith. And this [salvation] is not of yourselves [not through your own effort], but it is the [undeserved, gracious] gift of God; not as a result of [your] works [nor your attempts to keep the Law], so that no one will [be able to] boast or take credit in any way [for his salvation]. For we are His workmanship [His own master work, a work of art], created in Christ Jesus [reborn from above—spiritually transformed, renewed, ready to be used] for good works, which God prepared [for us] beforehand [taking paths which He set], so that we would walk in them [living the good life which He prearranged and made ready for us].
In the kitchen on the edge of a sink, I have a sponge that I use to do dishes or wipe down the counter. When I bought it, it was completely dried and shriveled up in a package. When I put it in water, it absorbed the water and the appearance changed. Over time, I have used it countless times. Over time, I will come into the room and smell a foul odor. Inevitably, it is the little yellow sponge on the counter so I throw it in the dishwasher. See if I do not properly wring out all of the water, it will spoil inside the sponge. I am God’s Sponge. He fills me each day with the express purpose that I empty it out on others. He refills me. When something gets inside that is hindering me, it stinks to the Lord so He in essence wrings me out again. He doesn’t do it because He doesn’t love me. In fact, it is just the opposite. I am no good to myself or anyone else with hidden sin in my life. Those things that represent unbelief or rebellion against God’s Way must go so I can have and be everything His Word has promised. My past is directly linked to my future or it would not have existed. I am being transformed day by day. God uses our yesterday to bless our tomorrow no matter how difficult it was or how little we want to think about it. His Way is perfect. His Desire is to give us a future and hope that involves every single detail of our life resulting in something good and praiseworthy. Are we holding back those old photographs from God’s Attention? I want the life that Jesus died for me to have all of it including every blessing. I want to honor the Lord by giving Him my life to make what He desires including my past, present and future. There are very few perfect pictures in my life. I live in the moment rather than trying to document each one. Lord, show me how to use my past for potential in the future. I want others to see that You are good!
Isaiah 43:18-19 (AMP)
“Do not remember the former things, or ponder the things of the past. “Listen carefully, I am about to do a new thing, now it will spring forth; will you not be aware of it? I will even put a road in the wilderness and rivers in the desert…”