A very heartfelt response prompted this reflection from me. I felt it might be so worth sharing. I hope it blesses you all so much.
“Therefore, get rid of all moral filth and the evil that is so prevalent and humbly accept the word planted in you, which can save you.
Do not merely listen to the word, and so deceive yourselves. Do what it says. Anyone who listens to the word but does not do what it says is like a man who looks at his face in a mirror and, after looking at himself, goes away and immediately forgets what he looks like. But the man who looks intently into the perfect law that gives freedom, and continue to do this, not forgetting what he has heard, but doing it – he will be blessed in what he does.” (James 1:21-25 NIV)
I wanted to take a moment to encourage you about overcoming your painful past. I know regret and the pain of decisions I cannot take back. I also know that God will bring us fully into His will when we trust Him completely with all of our “ugly” selves.
I, too, shyed away from books, Bible studies and opportunities that made me confront my past mistakes, sometimes I still have circumstances I try to avoid. However, God showed me it is much more beneficial to walk through those painful moments in His grace and His glory in a rather profound way: making me deal with my junk.
I began leading women’s ministry at a small country church in the fall of 2003, almost by accident. I had invited our pastor’s wife to join me in a study over the summer to keep me accountable. It was just she and I – I scheduled the meetings bought the curriculm and she and I sat and discussed the study each week throughout the summer. At the end she invited me to help her facilitate Bible study for women at our church. I readily agreed, thinking I could “co” do anything (including be co-dependent at times.)
By the third or fourth week she came into the study frazzled, “I can’t do this… I just don’t have the time – can you handle it on your own?”
“Sure, I agreed.” We concluded “Jesuse the One and Only” and made it through a holiday party and I was in my element: organizing, hostessing, directing conversation and sharing my own insights. We picked up “A Heart Like His” in January and completed it with 8 weeks left in our Spring Semester. At that time, we made a committment to do Beth Moore until we ran out of Beth Moore – the only two studies that would fit in my time frame were related to personal subjects I did not want to approach. “When Godly People Do Ungodly Things” and “Living Free” the follow up to “Breaking Free.” I knew enough to know that my “ungodly/carnal” past was about to catch up with me in a very public way if I landed in either of these studies and I was not entirely sure I was ready to deal with my past if you know what I mean.
We did “When Godly People Do Ungodly Things.” It is truly the first occasion I have to remember actually hearing the voice of God. At three in the morning, as I lay restless trying to sleep I heard God tell me to “Watch the video.” I grumbled a bit, “It’s three in th morning, I’ll do it first thing.” “Watch the video.”
“OKAY!” I threw back the covers and carefully picked my way around my room in the dark as I opened the ancient creaking door to our room trying desperately not to disturb my husband. With the door now closed I went to the bathroom and tried to get my bearings…
I finally fumbled around in living room looking for the video in question. Week Three, definitely a dealing with your stuff moment. The room was dark except for the glow from the bathroom light. I pulled out my workbook and sat it gingerly on my lap. I was poised to write – fill in my blanks, because I am the kind of girl who needs her blanks filled in. But as the video and Beth brought the Word to the table of my most shameful moments all I could do was slip out of my chair and hit my knees before the Lord. Tears were streaming down my face when I cried out, “Okay, Okay… so now what should I do?”
May I say never ask God a question that you do not expect to receive an answer to. He clearly prompted me, “Go stand in front of the mirror.”
I sat there for all of five minutes thinking, this is absolutely nuts. “Go stand in front of the mirror.”
I did so. The light seemed brighter as I stood and examined my ruddy, tear-stained face. My cheeks were blotched with hints of red and pink, my eyes swollen from the tears I had been crying. My nose was running like niagra falls and I was staring at this hopeless mess of a creature desperately trying to pretend she had it all together while leading a group of mostly older women through in-depth Bible study. I felt like a total fraud. I began, then and there, to confess the most shameful secrets and dark moments from my past. I laid them out before him the way a child caught stealing empties his pockets. With reservation at first, and then with gusto… I announced it all – never taking my eyes off the woman staring back at me in the mirror. The book of James chapter one comes to mind just now. As I sobbed before the Lord, I could hear the sweetest voice say, “Look up.” I did, and tried to wipe at my eyes so I could see through the tears clouding my view. “Look at the mess you’ve made out of all the beauty I created.” I crumpled…
“I know, I’m so sorry.” My heart and my Spirit broken, I surrendered it all to Him right there on the floor that night. Not that I didn’t pick it up every now and again and wear it out. But, that night I learned something very important, God not only wanted me to deal with my stuff, but He wanted to show me His plan for it. A few weeks later I had the most beautiful encounter with God and a week after that the first painful exercise in allowing God to use my past for His good and glory unfolded leaving me breathless. I had helped a young woman in an abusive relationship see she needed to reconcile with her parents and get away from the man who was hurting her. I had asked God a hundred times why I had to go through that in my life — and all the way home that afternoon I heard Him say, “That is why, dear child. Because I needed you here today.”
It’s all about Him, without Him I’m a squawling mess having a fit in the floor… He keeps me centered, balanced and going.