Well friends, it’s been a while.
The truth is, every fiber of my body has been longing to write, but finding the time has been difficult. Over the past few weeks, I’ve been traveling quite a bit. Two weekends ago the mister and I were in San Antonio, Texas, this past weekend I was in Carrollton, TX (my hometown), this weekend I’ll be in Fredericksburg, Texas for a college friend reunion trip, and after that it’s Houston, Dallas, Europe and eventually Canada. On top of all of this, I’m sprinting to finish all of my course work by the end of May so that I can have some sort of a summer. All of this to say, things have been moving a bit too fast…kind of. (When you live in the West Texas desert, excitement has to found somewhere!)
Ok. Enough excuses. Here’s the reason I’m writing today:
Over the past month, the Lord has been stirring in the deepest parts of my heart exposing areas that desperately need His help and freeing me from one of them. Because what He’s taught me through his word and the guidance of others has been so impactful, I’d love to share a part of the journey with you.
As a lot of my previous posts have hinted at, my past isn’t the prettiest thing in the world. Middle-school insecurity turned into a high-school drive to be valued and accepted by my peers, which led me down a not-so-great path. I unintentionally hurt myself, my friends at the time, and a lot of other people, I’m sure. Although I’m ten years older than I was then, and am a much different person, I still experience (or experienced) daily pain over who I was then and the embarrassment that comes with it all. (NOTE: Some of you may have known me in high school and may have absolutely no idea what I’m talking about. If you’re interested in the full story, feel free to ask me. I’d love to share it with you.)
A few weeks ago, our church in Midland started a series called “Scars,” which examined the concept of suffering and explored ways in which one could heal properly from painful experiences. It was powerful, to say the least.
Through it, I realized that I had failed to fully heal from the “person I was.” I had accepted my new identity in Christ years ago, and had grown quite a bit, but I had shoved the rest under a rug thinking that it would just disappear. The problem was it never did. For years, without being totally aware of it, I had carried around the burden of my past – the burden of the “person I was” – with me everywhere I went. Each time I was reminded about my upcoming high school reunion, I cringed. Every time a friend mentioned something about my old peers, I felt uneasy. I wasn’t free.
One day, I was reading a book about the life of Paul, and something clicked.
Paul (who before he was a follower of Jesus was named Saul) was a killer of Christians. If the gospel of Jesus was on one side, Paul was on the opposite. He believed that keeping the Jewish law was the best thing a person could do and to do anything else was heresy and deserving of death. Not only this, but he was climbing up in the ranks of Judaism as a Pharisee and delighted in the power and the social status that came with it. He was loyal to religious customs and was diligent in destroying anyone who tried to change things. The message of Jesus was doing just that – and it drove Paul to extreme measures.
Paul was feared by Christians. They knew that if they came into contact with him, their life would be in danger, and the gospel of Jesus would be attacked. Paul was fierce. If anyone was “too far gone,” it was him. Yet, in Acts 9, we see something amazing happen…
“But Saul, still breathing threats and murder against the disciples of the Lord, went to the high priest and asked him for letters to the synagogues at Damascus, so that if he found any belonging to the Way, men or women, he might bring them bound to Jerusalem [to be tried and possibly killed]. Now as he went on his way, he approached Damascus and suddenly a light from heaven shone around him. ‘Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting me?’” (Verses 1-4)
In an instance, Paul experienced Jesus and his life was dramatically transformed. Today, we know him as the great apostle of Christ, the founder of many early churches, and the writer of most of the New Testament.
So what’s my point?
As I was reading this book, I realized that Paul was not a superhuman. He was a man who was chosen by the Lord to do great things, but he was not divine. I’m sure he had struggles, not only with his day-to-day life, but also with his past. I mean, he had killed Christians, and then he became one. That had to have come with some baggage.
“I am the least of the apostles, unworthy to be called an apostle, because I persecuted the church of God.” – 1 Corinthians 15:9
“The saying is trustworthy and deserving of full acceptance, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners, of whom I am the foremost.” – 1 Timothy 1:15
I don’t know Paul. I’ve read a lot of his letters, but I’ve never met him. I’ve never sat down over a cup of coffee to ask him about his story and his life, but it’s hard for me to imagine that he didn’t battle feelings of shame and regret over the Christians he had killed and the way he had mocked Jesus before he started following him.
In fact, since he was human, I’m sure he did.
My history and Paul’s is quite different, yet in some ways, it’s the same. We both didn’t know who we were, we both didn’t understand the grace of God and the path to true life, and we were both transformed by the same grace we didn’t know before.
For years, I’ve been holding onto the “person I was.” I’ve been holding onto shame, embarrassment and regret over the people I hurt and the way I misrepresented what life in Christ really looks like. Each day, I tried to shove the feelings and negative thoughts in a dark closet, and I tried to move on, but my attempts only left me feeling broken and burdened.
This past month has been extraordinary. I’ve experienced God’s grace in phenomenal ways, and although it’s been incredibly difficult at times, it’s been refreshing.
You see, I’m not the “person I was” in high school. My past truly is my past, and though it’s shaped me in big ways, it’s not my present, nor my future.
“I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me. And the life I now live in the flesh, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself up for me.” – Paul in Galatians 2:20
Paul came from a “checkered” past, and so have I, but there’s hope.
My name is Lindsey. I was once lost in trying to find my identity in everything this world had to offer, but today I know who I am. I’m loved by God, accepted by Him, and chosen to be used as a tool in his hands. I can’t change the past, and I thank God for the way it has shaped me, but today I’m different. Today, I’m defined by Christ and his calling on my life, not by where I once was.
In times of doubt and shame, I must remind myself of this. I’m sure Paul had to do the same thing, too.
I don’t know where you are, but if you know Jesus, and if you’ve come to experience his grace and payment for your sins (which you could NEVER pay for yourself through good deeds), then you’ve been adopted. He loves you. He’s given you a purpose and He finds you valuable. You’re defined by Him, so don’t let your past or the pressures of this world tempt you to believe otherwise.
“Forgiven, beloved, hidden in Christ,
Made in the image of the Giver of Life.
Righteous and holy, reborn and remade,
Accepted and worthy, this is our new name.
This is who we are now…”
– Jason Gray “I am New”