unrelenting.past

photo credit : Michael Beck of StudioEnFuego

I’m sitting in silence, reading the updates of my friends on Facebook. Some of these friends are relatively new connections, many with whom I have shared awesome God-driven moments. I look at their avatar and am reminded of small group gatherings, pot-luck dinners, baptisms, and walking across the stage to grab that late-in-life bible college diploma. Awesome memories.

But there are others in my social stream whose smiling faces, cropped square, elicit other memories. Some of these memories are mere flashes blurred by drunken stupor. Some are violent memories. Some are embarrassing – even shameful. But they are mine.

I wonder what they think when they see my status updates praising Jesus and revealing scripture. I wonder what they think when I share a church potluck event or a report of Sunday’s service. Do they see my avatar and remember that “me” whom I barely recognize or do they see My Father’s face? Do they patronizingly grin or do they marvel at how God changed me?

12I thank Christ Jesus our Lord, who has given me strength, that he considered me faithful, appointing me to his service. 13Even though I was once a blasphemer and a persecutor and a violent man, I was shown mercy because I acted in ignorance and unbelief. 14The grace of our Lord was poured out on me abundantly, along with the faith and love that are in Christ Jesus.  15Here is a trustworthy saying that deserves full acceptance: Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners—of whom I am the worst. 16But for that very reason I was shown mercy so that in me, the worst of sinners, Christ Jesus might display his unlimited patience as an example for those who would believe on him and receive eternal life.
(1 Timothy 1:12-16)

I am Paul and he is me. He knew what is was like to combat perceptions skewed by the person one used to be. He knew what it was like to be a new creature, with an unrelenting past. It is a past forgotten and forgiven by a God of matchless grace, but one that is at the edge of shame for the one who lived it. But from within that shame, each time it arises, a joyful song erupts – crescendos of gratitude and diminuendos of peace.

I am Imago Dei because He lives in me.

23 thoughts on “unrelenting.past”

  1. Great post Herb! I am continually amazed (although I shouldn’t be) by how God changes people. Me. You. Others. We all have a story, some (as you stated) more picturesque than others, but it is our story nonetheless. What a fantastic testimony to God’s grace you have become! I pray that all the FB connections you have may allow you to expand your testimony to include them in the hearing.

    1. Thanks for the encouraging words, Bill. It truly is amazing what God can do. There really is nothing that stands in the way of a relationship with the Creator of the Universe, other than our own reluctance.

  2. That is one of my favorite pieces of Scripture. I was a wild child and many of my friends from HS try to remind me of that. My best friend especially called me out. We sat down, I showed him this piece of Scripture and He was blown away.

    I too am Imago Dei.

  3. Loved the post – awesome stuff Herb. I have had the same thoughts as I look at the Mixture that is my social list on Facebook. Many are church folks but many also are High School Friends from when I was not living for Christ at all.

    I thank God that He is a God of Transformation!

  4. Wow, this is your best post ever. Showing God’s grace. As I read it it reminded me of my dad. A violent man, cursing in every sentence and so on. I always wondered how he could be like that. He was abusive. Spiritually, mentally and physically. But after my mum’s death I found God. I started to pray for our relationship and for my dad. Everytime he cursed, I would ask the Lord to forgive my dad. He was most aggresive when the word Jesus would come up. But I always sticked to my Lord. I told Him one day after a fight with my dad outside: Lord, I choose You no matter what. If my dad is going to be violent I still will choose You”. I waited for him to be violent, but it never happened. That blowed me away. It really hit me that if I would stay faithful He would protect me. And He did after that many times. My dads last two years he was loving, kind and humble. But we couldn’t go to church together. He died in a surgery and the Lord showed me my father accepted Jesus. I am so happy you are who you are in Christ. You are so appreciated.

    1. Ani, your story touches me. The message of grace is that no one is beyond redemption. I know that I’ve been personally guilty of forgetting how far God has moved me, as I judge another person irredeemable. I think that is why my mind revisits my past – not to remind me of my guilt, but to remind me that I am forgiven.

  5. Funny thing about my past… I spent so much time running around, partying, cussing, and acting like an idiot, trying to prove that I wasn’t a Christ follower, but nobody believed me. (Kind of like Peter during the trial of Jesus, come to think of it.) So, now that I’m living my life as a Christ follower, I’m actually just confirming what all of those people believed about me anyway…

  6. Thank you for sharing this post.. it speaks to my heart at this moment in my life. As a new Christ follower I wonder too, what people think, what do they see? The old me (are they waiting for me to fall off) or do they see the new me? God is so good, to pick us up and transform us.

    Thank you & God Bless.
    Misty

  7. Hi Herb,
    Just found your blog and boy can I relate too with your post and many of the comments. I am now a single mom in seminary! Figure that one out, yes, it’s by His Amazing Grace and Grip that never lets go. I too, have wondered what people on facebook think of “the new me”, but it’s all to God’s Glory! He never let’s go and His mercy endures forever. I’ll be adding you to my blog roll. Blessings and Peace, Robin

  8. Right there with you Herb. I have often had the same thoughts while perusing Facebook. Who do people think I am? Do those from my past remember me as I was? Embarrassing it is for sure. However, I have been very encouraged by some of my rough around the edges friends from the past who are now making status updates requesting prayer or praising God for His work in their lives. I don’t question who they are at all. I am just thankful that it seems they have found God. I hope they are taking the same joy in seeing some of my updates and praises.
    2 Corinthians 5:17 (NIV)
    Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has gone, the new has come!

    1. I love that verse, Rick. Some of the friends from my past have engaged me in matters of faith, and it is pretty awesome when that happens – however rare it might be. I like how you said, “I don’t question who they are at all” – good stuff.

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