Our church is in a series right now called “Identity: What it means to be a Christian,” and I am soaking up every single word. You know when you’re in church and the message speaks right to where you are in life and all you can think is “Yes!”? It’s that kind of series.
So yesterday our pastor spoke on “The Gift of Shame,” and on the surface shame isn’t the kind of thing I like to hear about. But it wasn’t about being shamed, it was about the imperfections and things in our lives we might think we should be ashamed of. The things we usually try to hide from others and how those are things that God wants to use for good. And to borrow Steph’s words about divine discontent, there’s lots of shiny and pretty in it, because the gist of the message was this:
A Christian is someone who is empowered by their past, not destroyed by it. And God works through those things in our life that we might be ashamed of to build a story for others who don’t yet believe. Because changed lives change lives.
It got me to thinking about why our stories matter to the gospel. Last Wednesday as I was drifting to sleep, I sat up and scribbled this in my journal (which really means I sat up like a crazy person, sleep mask still over my eyes, bedside light still off, and scribbled this in serial killer script across a random blank page because I was too tired to open my eyes and figure out where I last left off):
There are parts of my story that God wants me to share because they are resurrection stories – stories of how God does the impossible and can bring what’s dead in our lives back to life.
Yesterday in church as we closed service I couldn’t help but think the same thing. Our personal stories are resurrections that others can witness for themselves. When we share our stories, we share the resurrection that happened in our lives. Others can see God raise what was once dying (our dreams, our finances, our health, our relationships, our life trajectory – whatever!) back to life and the cross suddenly becomes real, relevant, current, and available to them.
There are lots of parts of my past that I don’t like to share. Not because I’m ashamed per se, but because I’m past them and they don’t come to mind in my daily life. But if I’m not willing to share some of those things, then how will others know that God can bring them past those things, too?
It’s powerful stuff. Of course, like everything in life I don’t think this is all black and white. I don’t think we have to meditate on or share every single thing that’s happened, and there are some things we just might not feel comfortable disclosing to others. But I do love the idea that the imperfect parts of our past are the very things God uses to show His love to others. That conversations about what He’s done in our lives can actually change the world.
Our pastor pointed to Paul’s letters to the early church. He frequently shared what God’s grace had done in his life, despite his past mistakes, and in doing so showed others what God’s grace could do in their lives in spite of their past imperfections.
I thank Christ Jesus our Lord, who has given me strength to do his work. He considered me trustworthy and appointed me to serve him, even though I used to blaspheme the name of Christ. In my insolence, I persecuted his people. But God had mercy on me because I did it in ignorance and unbelief. Oh, how generous and gracious our Lord was! He filled me with the faith and love that come from Christ Jesus.
This is a trustworthy saying, and everyone should accept it: “Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners”—and I am the worst of them all. But God had mercy on me so that Christ Jesus could use me as a prime example of his great patience with even the worst sinners. Then others will realize that they, too, can believe in him and receive eternal life. All honor and glory to God forever and ever! He is the eternal King, the unseen one who never dies; he alone is God. Amen. – 1 Timothy 1:12-17 (NLT)
What do you think? Have you ever been inspired by someone else’s “imperfect” story? Are there parts of your own “imperfect” story that God can use for good?
Psst more good stuff here:
Why Your Ugly Past Should Be Part of Your Future by Duane Scott on Emily Wierenga’s blog. Love this post on the very same thing!
1 Reason Why Your Story Matters by Alyssa Santos
It’s Not Always Easy, But it is Always Good by Alyssa Santos
Linking up with Michelle DeRusha and the gang at Hear it on Sunday, Use it on Monday
Original photo of Writing by Elisa Xyz. Photo edited by Gospel Girls.