I read a story this morning about the committee in Sandy Hook that is recommending the school where the shooting took place be demolished and rebuilt. Apparently, the emotional scars left behind are too much for some people to bear, so they want to tear down the building, and in so doing, they hope maybe they can tear down the memories.
As I read this story, I was reminded that many of us do the same thing with our past. When we look back, we see mistakes, hurt, regret, and even abuse. It’s hard to look at, so we look away. Some of us even try to destroy the structures of our past in order to escape the darkness of a time we wish never happened. But here’s the thing: God allowed our past to happen for a reason. If all we do is ignore it, run from it, or even destroy it – we’ll never see His purpose come to pass in the present, and we may never experience peace in the future because our past will never stop stalking and intimidating us.
Years ago, I had a professor who worked on staff at a church in the South. One night during choir practice, a choir member sexually abused his daughter. At 14 years old, that girl had to endure a darkness I hope most people reading this never will. However, 2 years later, she began to experience the healing power of God in the story of what Jesus did on the Cross. First, she forgave her abuser. Next, she made the decision to face and embrace her past. She could have run away from it, not thought about it, used it to justify a lack of responsibility, or even used it to justify hurting others. But she didn’t. Wanna know what she did? Check this out.
Sadly, abuse is pretty common in the lives of young ladies these days, and as my professor’s daughter – we’ll call her Emma – began getting to know other girls at her high school, she met one or two who had been abused, but were always ashamed and afraid to talk about it. After thinking and praying through it, Emma decided to use the hurt in her past to affect healing in the lives of others’ present. She put up posters all over her high school that said, “Girls – Been Sexually Abused? Let’s Talk About It. This Thursday, 6:30am at Corner Coffee Shop on the South Side.” Thursday came – along with about 70 high school girls – to the coffee shop. Hearts were opened, stories were shared, and many young ladies began to experience the healing power of God’s love that day. Most of them had never opened up about their abuse, but the supportive and loving environment that Emma created made them feel safe enough to feel vulnerable. The girls prayed for, hugged, and supported each other as each shared, and as it was happening, Emma saw firsthand the truth of Psalm 56:8:
“You keep track of all my sorrows.
You have collected all my tears in your bottle.
You have recorded each one in your book.” (Psalm 56:8)
Emma is an awesome example of how God can use our past to give meaning and purpose to our present – and how He comforts us so that we can comfort others. Ever read this verse?…
“Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves have received from God. For just as the sufferings of Christ flow over into our lives, so also through Christ our comfort overflows.” (2 Corinthians 1:4)
What events or seasons from your past haunt you? Is it possible that instead of running from your past, you should meet it head on? Maybe you weren’t abused, but maybe you made some dumb choices. Maybe something worse happened to you than happened to Emma. Or, maybe you missed out on an opportunity. Maybe you were the one who hurt someone else – but regardless of what happened, God’s desire is to use your past – for you, for others, and for His own glory. Are you willing to embrace your past? Are you willing to listen for God’s voice so that he might explain to you His plan? Ask Him for the courage to face those things that torment you the most – and prepare yourself for the miracle He’ll do in your heart.
My prayer for all who read this post (and that’s you!) is that God would thoroughly convince you that even though your past may have spots of darkness – He has a bright future for you in Jesus. Believe it. Live it. And love it.