My dad used to say that when you turn 16 years of age, the “brain fairy” comes and takes your brain away. She (or he) doesn’t return it until you’re at least 21. He has a lot of these sayings and of course most of the time they just make you shake you head, but there’s also a lot of truth there as well. Looking back on those particular 5 years of my life I can definitely say that I made a lot of bad decisions and endured some difficult situations because of it. The worst part though? All the memories. By the age of 22 I had some pretty deep emotional scars.
Emotional scars. It’s amazing how something you store mentally can have such a bearing on you. I lived with a lot of guilt and regret, often cutting myself off from others because I felt alone in my mistakes – different from everyone else. For awhile I convinced myself I was the only one who made those mistakes or had been through those trials. I was waist deep in my own self-pity mud and I figured I was destined to wallow in it forever. You see, shame can be a terribly heavy burden to bear.
Thankfully, God pulled on my heart so hard I became desperate. I was so desperate to be free of my burdens that I wept and cried out for hours. A dear sweet angel of a woman came up to me during that alter call, picked my face up in her hands and asked me what I was waiting for. And the only thing I could say was, “I’m just not worthy of anything better.”
There are some moments in time you can’t forget. The memories are so crisp and clear that it only takes a scent or phrase to send you reeling right back in time. This was such a moment and I couldn’t forget it if I tried.
With wisps of grey hair escaping her braid she had this look on her face. I can’t describe it any other way than the fact that she was rejoicing. She squeezed my shoulders really tight and looked me straight in the eye. “You’re worthy because you’re His. And He wants to give you His best. But you’ve got to take it. It’s here, just accept that it’s yours.”
And through my tears I watched her walk away. Never to see her again or know who she was or thank her for being a part of changing my life forever.
Because my life did change that night. After hours of agonizing and requesting His forgiveness over the past several years, I finally accepted His grace and walked out near 1 am with my burdens lifted and my head held high. It was one of the most difficult things I had ever done, but I chose to be counted worthy and to allow my mistakes to testify of Grace, not shame. But my life changed in another way as well…I learned that my future husband had been praying for me in his seat, just 5 feet behind me…the entire time.
God was never worried that I would be lost. He wasn’t worried about the mistakes I was making or wondering when I would come running back. He knew that no matter what I went through, He could still use me. He always had a plan in place for me. I just had to stop fighting my own feelings of unworthiness and accept whatever He would have for me.
If you’re struggling with shame over your past, realize that God can’t use you in that state. No, you can’t forget what you’ve done. I can’t forget my past, but He has in His own incredible way softened my memories to fading whispers. I can remember just enough to be thankful for His mercy and to testify over and again to anyone that will hear it. You can’t forget, but you change the feelings you associate with those memories. Instead of shame, choose gratitude. Instead of bitterness and guilt, choose joy.
To appoint unto them that mourn in Zion, to give unto them beauty for ashes, the oil of joy for mourning, the garment of praise for the spirit of heaviness; that they might be called trees of righteousness, the planting of the Lord, that he might be glorified.” -Isaiah 61:3
It’s so easy to think we’re the only one struggling and making mistakes, but there are others out there needing that same forgiveness. They need to know they’re not beyond the reaches of grace. You never know when your testimony may be the exact words someone needs to hear. So, lift your head up, exchange your guilt for joy and let your life testify.