I wasn't always this person. But don't remind me of that.
But this past weekend we sat around with my brother-in-law (Hey Jer!), reminiscing of times past over grilled summer vegetables and a few glasses of wine. We laughed remembering our younger years – a time that was much more free. Oh, we had no idea how free we were! Hopping from town to town, taking weekend trips on a whim, hitting up all the concerts, spending way too much money on sushi and beer – oh, what a time. Jerry had just dusted off a stack of old scrapbooks littered with photographs of our old clan, years before marriage and kids and moving – I imagine there were far fewer wrinkles and worried lines back then.
Conversation drifted, as it tends to, to our fateful meeting at that bar a decade ago. Yes, we met at a bar. And even worse than that? I had a boyfriend… and a serious one. One I'd devoted years of my life to. One that I had intended to settle down with and raise a family with.
And then there was Stuart.
When this circumstance was brought up in our conversation, I could feel the prickles come up my spine. It's never been a memory that I love to wallow in. I don't wish to be reminded of the girl I once was.
Who was she anyway?
The desperate part of me wanted to shout “No! Don't! Don't remind me of what I've done and who I used to be. Don't remind me of her. She's a turd.” I don't wish to be reminded, particularly by someone from my past, of something I've said… or something I've done… or who I used to be.
She seems like a different person – living in a different world. I don't remember what it was like to think her thoughts and feel her emotions. It wasn't until after meeting the Elliott brothers at that bar that I became a Christian – the type of Christian to profess a saving faith, by God's grace, through the work of my Lord, Christ Jesus. My old self was cast aside.
Sanctification isn't that easy, unfortunately, and she continues to bubble up more often than I'd care to welcome her. But still, the Lord now holds my heart and I am glad he “delights to draw His straight lines with crooked sticks.” Hint: the crooked stick is me.
The night was calm – crickets sang and a lone chicken far away continued to make herself known. The air was still and just barely touched by fall's sting. The house smelt of smoke from the grill and pork chop and peach juices mingled on the supper plates. I sat there, running my fingers along the edge of my now empty wine glass, listening to stories of her, I began to formulate in my mind what I wanted to say to the world (not the boys… they've heard it all): Don't remind me! Don't bring it up, don't talk about it, don't remember.
But then I remembered that the dirt that soils my history, those relationships I should have handled differently, those actions I shouldn't have taken, the words I shouldn't (or should) have said, the surplus of horrible decisions I made – those are what make grace so amazing.
Instead of saying “Don't remind me of the sins of my past!”, I can joyfully proclaim: “Yes, that is my history. But let me tell you what God has done for me!”
Paul, the apostle, used to murder Christians. Imagine his story – God brought him from the depths of his sin to a new life. A place of forgiveness. Paul's past is what makes God's work in him, and through him, extraordinary.
And so I sat (and poured a wee bit more into the wine glass). I didn't say a thing because I soon realized that I didn't need to argue against my past self. Rather, I needed to delight that God forgives for Jesus' sake. I needed to delight in the fact that he brought me from a place of death and destruction to a place of mercy.
By God's grace, this past decade of life has brought with it maturity and wisdom. Sanctification is a painfully slow process, but it's progress none-the-less. And I can truthfully say that I'm thankful for her. She allows me to experience the depths of God's forgiveness. And I'd rather experience that than any form of a perfect history.
“God loves you just the way you are, but too much to leave you there.”