We all have something…or some things…in our past that we would rather forget. Some people have secrets that are so great that they’re eating at them from the inside out. Others have chosen to air out their dirty laundry with an unforgiving world. Most of us are somewhere in between.
Often, we hold in truths about ourselves that we ourselves have even forgotten. They’ve been gathering dust in the filing cabinets of our brains for years and we accidentally stumble upon them while looking for something else. At times they surprise us so much so that we get numb all over our bodies until a shiver is sent up our spines and we shudder thinking, “Did that really happen??? Was that really me, because I swear it was someone else…” And sometimes it was. Someone else.
I recently heard a message from our pastor about how he has been married to 5 women. He was joking, of course. His point was that he has been married to the same person for 37 years, but the person he married 37 years ago is not the same person he is married to today…or ten years ago…or five years ago. She has changed. He has changed. They have changed.
Haven’t we all, after-all? By God’s amazing grace I am not the same person that I was ten years ago. I think about the different versions of myself over the years. Sometimes I look upon myself with pride and think that I’m so glad I didn’t back down in one situation. And other times I get that shudder I was was describing. My whole body aches with longing to go back and change what I did. The thing I said. The choice I made. Or the situation I put myself in. How much hurt could I have avoided? How much hurt could I have spared others? How many words I could have left unspoken! How many times I should have spoken up…but I didn’t have the courage!
Some people have this weird thing about remorse or regret. They say that remorse and regret leave you stuck living in the past. They say that you should live without any regrets because they are, after all, what have made you who you are today. While I agree with the idea that our choices, whether noble choices or poor, have molded us into who we are today, I find it complete rubbish that we should not regret our poor decisions.
I am, again, thankful that God’s grace has allowed some good to come out of many of the unfortunate events or poor decisions I’ve made. For some of you, maybe you think it’s the universe that has all worked out somehow…or something. But either way, I recognize that little good has come out of my poor decisions. However, I cannot honestly say that I would not run to the 18-year old version of myself screaming to run in the opposite direction of where I was headed for that period in my life. I cannot honestly say that I would not have forewarned the childhood version of myself to avoid certain situations. I cannot honestly say that I would not grab my friend, Stephanie, the Friday afternoon of May 19, 2000 and tell her “DON’T GET ON THAT BIKE TOMORROW! WHATEVER YOU DO!” I say that I would truly ditch the guys in High School and spend more time with my friends and family. (No offense, guys. I’m sure you’d say the same thing… Afterall, how many friendships of mine were ruined over a relationship that ended up nowhere? Even one would be too many. )
If I could go back, I would receive the wisdom of my parents, teachers, mentors, pastors. I would have stood strong for what was right and true even when I knew it might end in rejection or hurt. I would have been true to my convictions without fail. I cannot emphasize this enough. I would not, for one second, want someone to read this and say, “Oh. I want to go off and make a bunch of stupid choices so God can use it to glorify himself.” If that’s what you walk away thinking…then please contact me and I will tell you why that’s ridiculous, foolish, and stupid.
I have, at times,
asked begged God to take away certain memories from my brain ranging the span of my life. I’ve longed to forget certain choices I’ve made or others have made for me. I’ve longed to forget so many of the bad things I’ve experienced. I still hold each memory somewhere in the recesses of my brain…just awaiting the next time I stumble upon it. Often in my dreams. God has not taken them away.
As I become closer to God, though, I realize that many of these poor choices are what remind me of God’s great grace and mercy. I think of certain times in my life when I felt like I was in such a dark place. I may not have been suicidal, but I know that there were times that I prayed God would just take me home. There were times that life seemed so ugly, so hopeless and I just did not have the strength to pick myself back up. Those were times when God came through for me.
I don’t know much about his story, but there’s a song that David Crowder writes, “Raise me up from this grave. Touch my tongue, and then I’ll sing. Heal my limbs and joyfully I’ll run to you!” There was a time in my life that I listened to that song just because I felt like it was all that my soul could say truthfully. Everything else that came from my lips felt like a lie. Every time I said, “Good morning” I felt like it was a lie from what I was truly feeling. Although, “Hi. I’d really rather be dead right now” doesn’t have quite the same ring to it, does it? I pleaded with God to heal my broken heart, broken dreams, and broken…well…everything. I didn’t even know who I was anymore. I felt like a shell of the person that I knew just a year before. I felt like every ounce of what I was had been traded in to become a person that I didn’t even like.
But God met me there. God met me where I was and he raised me up from the pit I had dug for myself. So many people say that God helps those who help themselves. I will testify against that. God helped me because I couldn’t help myself. God helped me because I am His daughter and He loves me. He stood, watching for my shadow at the end of the road. And when I was still a long way off, he came running to me. He wrapped his arms around me and didn’t ask where I had been. He didn’t ask what I had done. He knew my remorse He knew. I had turned my back on God. I had effectively spit at his face and said, “Forget you! I’m doing my own thing now.” I know that my actions broke his heart. But he allowed me to act on my own free will. And I freely came back to his open arms and rejoiced in the love I had found awaiting me. (See Luke 15:11-32)
It was through my poor decisions that God allowed me to get to a point where I could see my need for His grace and accept it in my own life. His rescuing me from, what I felt were, the pits of my destruction is a reminder to me. When I wonder, “God…where are you? Are you even real?” He reminds me of those dark days from where he rescued me. He reminds me that He is the faithful one. He is the one who allows me to act on my own free will, but lovingly allows me to return to him when I come to my senses.
So, no matter how much I beg God to take memories from me, I am thankful that he doesn’t. There are, to be sure, times that those memories are so painful that I think, “UGH! Why now? Why do I have to remember this? Why can’t I just take it back?” And at the same time, they remind me of where I’ve been and how much God really loves me.
When I was in college, there was a passage that really stood out to me and resonated with me. In Jeremiah 31, God says, “I have loved you with an everlasting love; therefore I have continued my faithfulness to you. Again I will build you, and you shall be built, O virgin Israel!” I loved this verse so much. If you read through the scriptures, you’ll notice that Israel is far from being a “virgin.” Israel, spiritually, had given herself to every single idol and emptiness that she could. She had committed spiritual adultery. She had forgotten God. But God brought her back to himself. He was faithful to her because he LOVED her…not because she had done anything right. He picked Israel back up. He dusted her off and gave her a reason to celebrate.
Looking back on my life so far, I see so many times when God picked me up, dusted me off, and gave me a reason to celebrate. Of course there are still consequences to my actions. There’s no doubt about that. God hasn’t punished me with consequences. The consequences are built-in to my sins or the sins committed against me. There really isn’t a way to take that back. Again, they’re reminders of God’s grace.
I’m reminded of the story of Lazarus. In John chapter 11, we read about how Lazarus becomes ill–to the point of death. Mary and Martha call upon Jesus to come and heal Lazarus. Mary, Martha, and Lazarus were dear friends of Jesus. Theyknew that Jesus was completely capable of healing him. They thought that because they were Jesus’ friends, that they would not have to go through this suffering. In fact, both Mary and Martha said to Jesus, “Had you been here, Lazarus would not have had to die.” It’s interesting, though, because we know that Jesus had healed others from a distance. Had they really had faith, they could have said, “Jesus. You knew he was sick. If you wanted to stay where you were for two more days, you could have just healed him from there.” But no matter. They were disappointed that their Messiah didn’t come though for them and prevent this suffering.
Mary and Martha (and everybody else) had no idea what Jesus had up his sleeves. Jesus ended up raising Lazarus from the dead. This miracle helped to solidify the faith of the disciples, his friends, and those who had not even met Jesus yet. It also spurred some on to notify the Pharisees to only progress what Jesus had come to do–to die. This very event brought so much glory to God that it is amazing. Lazarus had to die. He had to rise again. This brought God far more glory than if he had simply healed him.
I believe that Jesus has raised me up from a spiritual death. He has come in and given life and purpose to my soul. His greatest miracles in my life are how he brought me through those struggles. Those are the times I can point back and see him. I can look back and remember his faithfulness in my life through my trials.
That is why I can’t forget.