As far as the east is from the west, so far has He removed our wrongdoings from us. — Psalm 103:12 NASB
A few years ago, I was speaking in a city in which I spent a lot of my younger years — the kind of place that holds the history where you cut your teeth on regrettable teenage decisions like hair dye, fast driving, and a snotty attitude that people with a very good memory never let you forget. A private introvert, a sometimes-outspoken preacher’s kid, and an insecure girl who never quite recovered from being called fat by her very first crush, teenage Lisa was complicated. If I could wrap young Lisa up in my arms now, I would hold her tenderhearted self so tight and tell her that assertive women wouldn’t be so misunderstood one day, that self-protecting with your fists up doesn’t make for very good relationship-building, and that Jesus is the only One who always needs to be strong. This is what she needed to hear, instead of words of scrutiny and judgment.
Though I’m grateful to speak wherever God sends me, every speaker knows it is a mixed bag to speak in a place you grew up. This is no exception. But my circumstances exacerbate it. My hometown is also the place my father had a very public ministry fall, lost his church, and our family was all over the local news. Memories are harder in this place. Speaking is heavier because it comes with baggage.
I am in the greenroom before the first night of the event, and it is mere minutes before I take the stage. I am prayed up, prepared, and feel ready, until... an offhanded comment by someone sitting in the room threatens to break me. We are talking about someone we both know from our past, and I am told that when she found out I was the one speaking, she declined the invitation to come to the event because she couldn’t get past who she knew me to be in high school.
It’s amazing how quickly a moment like this can cause that young version of ourselves to resurface, how quickly comments can be used as tools of discouragement, how people who don’t let you forget the places you’ve worked hard with God to move past don’t realize how damaging their skepticism and negativity really are.
I have lived away from this city for nearly thirty years. Been through rounds of counseling. Enjoyed a monogamous twenty-seven-year marriage, raised three wonderful kids, kept the same best friend since seminary, successfully house-trained a small dog, and managed to not kill three current houseplants. For most of my adult life, God has allowed me to serve in some incredible places in ministry, using my gifts. Most of all, He has changed me so much since my high school and college days, sometimes even to myself I am unrecognizable.
- Yet at this moment, none of it feels like enough. I am not allowed to forget.
My past missteps have disqualified me from standing before people and saying to them, “God loves you. You can change. You were made to be used for the glory of God,” even though it’s my actual testimony. Only perfect people get to do that. Only people who haven’t made mistakes. I wish I knew people like that. Someone. Anyone. I know for sure: it is not me.
I’m guessing you have some type of “that is not me” story because of something in your past. Maybe it’s made you think as a result, That can never be me, as far as what God can do through you because of things you’ve done. If someone else hasn’t put that on you, you have put it on yourself. We are good at preaching our own inadequacies, self-diagnosing our own dead ends and ceilings. People are good at being historians, especially when the history involves someone else’s shortcomings. But God knows about that past you cannot redo. You would if you could. You wish you could. But wishing is really just wasting — wasting time, wasting energy, wasting years of your life that could be used to glorify God with your gifts.
- We are good at preaching our own inadequacies, self-diagnosing our own dead ends and ceilings.
It would be one thing if God hadn’t been aware of your past and chose you without that information. But His omniscience covers for every hidden sin, your most heinous secret, and your worst behavior, past and present. It’s not like with other people, where they don’t know everything — they only see your good side and love you with missing information. We don’t have to wonder what God might do if He knew even that. He does. And it hasn’t changed anything.
At the same time, it is the reason we are ever-needy of Him. Because of what He knows about our private life, He says:
‘My grace is sufficient for you, for My power is perfected in weakness’. — 2 Corinthians 12:9 CSB
Paul, who wrote this, of all people, had experienced the joy of coming into fellowship with a God who knew every sordid detail about what he had done and yet not only forgave him but chose to powerfully use his life moving forward — the same thing He wants to do with ours, no matter where we’ve been or what we’ve done.
Excerpted with permission from God Knows by Lisa Whittle, copyright Lisa Whittle.
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God knows what you and I have done. He knows all our history, all our faults, all our mistakes and sins. And, He loves us beyond our ability to understand! God has plans for you. He can powerfully use you for the Kingdom no matter what your history is. How does that cause you to respond? Come share with us. We want to hear from you! ~ Laurie McClure, Faith.Full