Being & Building Followers & Friends of Jesus
Last week's entry was about you receiving forgiveness. This week, it’s about you extending it—to others, and ultimately to yourself as well. So yes, this week we’re still more focused on the “negative” pieces of our lives, but the bigger focus is on finding our way past those pieces.
So let’s pick up where we left off. This time, though, rather than dwelling on the things that have caused us deep shame—and for now, the need to forgive others in those areas—let’s go broad instead of deep. Let’s explore the width and breadth of all those “little” things from our past that nonetheless work together to hold us back from believing in God’s best for us.
And let’s start here: The person least immune to all of this is me. As I warned in the introduction to this book, by laying out all these issues before you, I’m also taking a buzzsaw to the undergrowth in my own life.
As I finished the previous devotion (“Lay Down Your Shame”), I was confronted by my own accusations—not by shame, but by all the negative things in my past that I nevertheless allow to define me. To be sure, some of my counter-reactions to those negative things have had some very positive results. You’re reading one of them right now. For that matter, I spent three years writing a six-book bible-study series that was very much a counter-reaction to some decidedly negative circumstances in my life at the time (“I’ll show you what discipleship looks like!”). And as I reflect upon it now, my counter-reaction to my childhood is what gave me the determination that my marriage and the way our children were raised would be different—and they were.
Yet, there’s a part of me—no doubt bigger than I realize even now—that spends an inordinate amount of time identifying myself against those negative things in the past that I’m not. Seeing this in other people’s lives—and I think it’s even truer for those trapped by shame—I observe what I like to call a “spiritual Stockholm Syndrome.” That is, the penchant to identify ourselves with—and perhaps excuse but not truly forgive—those who have hurt us deeply.
I, too, am often just as trapped by it.
Our experiences, to a large degree, have made us who we are. But we are more than our experiences, let alone our negative ones. There’s a life in Christ waiting for us that goes beyond what we would limit ourselves to. “Laying down what’s done” doesn’t mean we forget the things in our past. And it certainly doesn’t mean we stop feeling anything when they come to mind, although hopefully we learn to move on more quickly. It does mean that we no longer allow ourselves to own those things, and that we no longer allow them to own us.
God can use the things of our past to create something far better than the prison those things have often become for us. (That goes for positive things as well; we’ll spend more time there in future weeks.) Very often, as we share how God has changed us in those areas, God brings deliverance and transformation to others—as well as through our vulnerability in confessing our willingness to be changed, as we continue to work through those issues.
For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them (Ephesians 2:10).
Let’s face it: We’re all “pieces of work” in some way. And yet, all of us are also works in progress. By being willing to lay down our baggage, we give God full permission to get on with the work he’s prepared us for since the day we were created. And we might be surprised by how far-reaching that work will become.
Lay It Down Today
1) Take a chunk of time right now to think about how God has transformed one or more areas of your life. Thank God for the changes he’s already brought about through that.
2) Perhaps this devotional has stirred up something you’d really thought/hoped you’d moved on from, but where God needs to do an even deeper work. Spend some time giving that issue up to God. Allow him to transform it into what he wants.
3) Either way, think about this: How could sharing about your past enable someone else to get past theirs? If someone came to mind, make time to share with that person. Remember: If something truly required—or requires, if you and God are dealing with it right now—God’s intervention, it’s already important. That’s enough. So look for an opportunity to let God speak through your life, and let God take it from there.