Paul commented on John’s post yesterday: “I have found this thematic teaching of Shulamite Ministries to be one of the most challenging to embrace.” You are not alone, Paul! I’ve struggled mightily for years to accept my life and make peace with it – and with God. It seems counter-intuitive to grab hold of the worst moments in my life and grapple with them; wouldn’t it be better to let those rabid sleeping dogs lie? I once thought so, but I was proven wrong again and again, because the healing and freedom of grappling and then accepting is undeniable.
Though I’m a New Creation, I Only Have One Story
My life has a dividing line between unredeemed me and born-again me. I am a new creation with a new Life. But still I only have ONE story. Part of the adventure of my new Life is discovering God’s purpose in my story – my WHOLE story. And that’s not possible if I’m doing all I can to erase a big chunk of it. There’s no better way to be haunted by your past than to pretend it doesn’t exist.
Here’s an example from my life. I was a band geek, a big one. I played clarinet, and I loved it. So my life fairly revolved around band, marching band, music lessons, competitions, youth orchestras and other music-related activities. Some of my happiest memories involve music, and so do some of my worst. By the time I was a junior in high school, it was no longer fun. Competition was fierce, jealousies and machinations were everywhere and I began to pull away because I just couldn’t handle it. This world that I loved became complicated and hard, and I couldn’t deal with it. Basically, I went through the motions until I graduated high school and then I quit. I haven’t played since.
Fast forward to a few years ago, and I’m ranting about someone. Specifically, I’m judging them HUGE for not being willing to walk out a big change in their life. I said something like, “I guess they’d rather quit and walk away then have to deal with the hard stuff.” I wish I could say that I was immediately struck by the irony of this judgment, but I wasn’t. See, I was always very ashamed that I couldn’t hack it in the growing fierceness of my music world. I was weak and foolish. I didn’t have what it took. And my pride hated that.
I had refused to engage with that part of my story. It was easier to avoid thinking or talking about it. Or so it seemed. In actuality, however, I was haunted. I had received no grace for myself, no forgiveness. I had not made peace with my weakness and failure. I had absolutely not accepted and received that part of my story. And all that bruised pride and self-hatred and self-cursing came spewing out on this other person. I had no compassion or grace for them because I had received none for myself. I wanted the so-called ‘easy way out’ of an unpleasant part of my story through avoidance and repression, and the result was that I cursed and judged someone I loved.
We none of us can escape our story. I only have one story, and so do you. Until we’ve made peace with our story, we’re either a walking time bomb or a master of lies. It’s not easy to face the past, to visit the days and deeds of old, but after the pain and the sweat comes grace and healing and Christ’s own compassion for YOU. And that compassion and grace and acceptance make you an earthen vessel of the Love that reaches people. Instead of cursing and judging the broken people around you that hit too close to the wound in your heart, you’ll have a heart healed and whole and full of the empathy of Jesus Himself.
For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but One who has been tested in every way as we are, yet without sin.
Hebrews 4:15 HCSB