One of the things my husband admires most about my sister-in-law (besides her amazing salted frosting) is that she never forgets where she came from. She grew up in a tiny town, no bigger than our suburban neighborhood. She embraces those early chapters of her story and lets them ground her in humility and a deep appreciation for simple joys.
We reconnected with some old college friends this past weekend. And in doing so I realized that — quite unlike my sister-in-law — I have actively avoided such opportunities in the past exactly because they remind me of where I came from.
What should be my “good old days” instead often feels like returning to my own little shop of horrors:
I was lost back in those days, making poor choices in relationships and not liking myself very much (a sad, but common experience for so many young women).
I knew God, but I did not follow him; I repeatedly turned away. I felt the pain of separation, but I couldn’t seem to find my way out of that dark little shop.
For although they knew God, they neither glorified him as God nor gave thanks to him, but their thinking became futile and their foolish hearts were darkened.
Fortunately, with God’s help I eventually closed up shop, and my life today bears little resemblance to that difficult season, so much so that it’s tempting to forget where I came from.
But as I sat down with my Bible last Sunday morning and opened to Romans, God revealed why it’s important to visit the ghosts of the past now and then.
Paul begins Romans by making the case that we all are condemned by our sin natures, even more so those of us who know the Lord, who were taught his laws, and yet still turned away:
There is no one righteous, not even one;
there is no one who understands;
there is no one who seeks God.
All have turned away,
they have together become worthless;
there is no one who does good,
not even one.
Romans 3:11-12 (NIV)
Thanks to Jesus I do not live under the weight of my past sin, overcome by shame and regret. He died to set me free me from that bondage, and he has given me a new nature.
You were taught, with regard to your former way of life, to put off your old self…and to put on the new self, created to be like God in true righteousness and holiness.
So while it is never a comfortable trip back, I now realize it’s important one. Only in remembering where I came from can I humbly and joyfully share the story of the great things God has done for me and invite others to experience his saving grace.
Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus