Tonight I am speaking at the Trinity House. I will let you know how it goes, God's used some interesting approaches to get my attention on what to talk about, and how to begin, but the ultimate issue I really want to address is that a person's past/story/testimony is one of the most powerful sharing tools that God can give you, and when a person embraces that and becomes transparent about where they've been and how far they've come - there is often no better way to truly glorify God.
Paul makes it very clear in the Bible about his "path of destruction" before God literally blinded him to that past and opened doors for his unique history to be used mightily for the eternal kingdom. I feel like some of these young people I come in contact with will often read that and think, "well, that's all good and well for Paul, but I know that somehow Jesus' dying on the cross for all of mankind's sins just isn't enough for what I HAVE DONE." I've actually had that very conversation....where my response is "Really, REALLY? You are the ONE exception to the rule? You are the ONE person God's gift wasn't big enough, expansive enough, generous enough to save?" And, then, it kind of just turns into a twisted matter of reverse pride which is such a powerful tool used by the enemy to twist our minds and hearts to make us feel unworthy.
Recently, I was given some information about a friend. She's in the midst of a situation that 15 years ago I might have gasped out loud about, and now I respond with just sadness. One, because she won't let her friends in to help her due to shame (even though, in this scenario, it's not her personally dealing with the most obvious sin), and two, because I think she believes she's alone and nobody else walks this kind of road of destruction she's personally on.
I've got to tell you, because of my unique position in ministry - and probably the age group I work with - nothing shocks me anymore. Sure, there are details to stories that work me up more than others, but when it comes to judging someone based on the horrible past they've had....I don't know, I guess I've changed. (I'm not trying to sound all holy here....I definitely have my own struggles, but in this are God's redesigned my perspective). I feel like saying, "If you only knew..." when I'm talking to these people baring their souls, expecting a recriminating response, but risking it just to get the burden off of their hearts.
In fact, sometimes I find myself thinking, "Omigosh, how exciting - do you know the potential ministry impact your unique story will have on others?" "Do you know how much your unique journey will impact someone else who has reached the end of their similar journey - and is ready to give up?"
And, sometimes, I get to run across the truly remarkable ones - who have already "crossed to the other side" of carrying shame over their experiences to now using it to glorify God and his mercy and grace. And, I literally get chills as I stand back and behold God moving through someone so uniquely, and to such great measure - meeting the needs of someone I could never be able to given my own rather sheltered past. Sure, I can point people to others (with their permission, of course) - but, on my own, my past isn't much.
But, in God's perfect plan...it kind of is after all. Because, do you know who I married? This is part of what I will talk about tonight. He wasn't the man that fit all of my "Prince Charming" requirements. This boy that I've been married to for over 15 years was a naughty boy. He's got a rap sheet (figuratively)- and a girl like me, who walked the straight and narrow growing up NEVER would have associated with a boy like him. But, God intervened. And, instead of being introduced to "a boy with a story" - I found myself attracted to a man with a literal radiance for Jesus. John glowed. There's just no other words to describe it. At one of the lowest points of my life, I got to be around a guy that lived and breathed Jesus Christ and all of the redemptive, grace-filled, VICTORIOUS promises that He offers. And, I couldn't help myself but wanting to be near him, to know John more, because by getting to know John more, I was getting to know Christ more.
I want to scream and shout it out to some of these folks trapped in a pit of shame for whatever past they are still in or have had....there is a VICTORY out there for the taking - but the price is big and it's surrender. Surrender to the shame that's kept you telling lies and hiding your behavior, surrender of pride that your situation is too big to ever overcome and be healed, and surrender to Jesus in faith that through Him you can not only be restored, but used - and used in such ways that you may be shocked at what God seeks to accomplish through "lowly ol' you".
John is shocked, let me tell you. I am shocked - yes indeed. But, not shocked anymore over the stories of people's failures, but shocked that I get to be part of such a life to see the incredible blessings on the other side. Blessings like last night with Kenjon, with our kids, with our marriage, with our friendships, etc., etc. Unbelievably, in awe over what "lowly ol' us" get to be a part of....