“But by the grace of God, I am what I am, and His grace to me was not without effect” (Corinthians 15:10)
People really get into this idea of “Throwback Thursday”, or #tbt if you speak #hashtag language. Each week there is a photomontage on Facebook as people share in this collective “blast from the past”. Baby pictures, prom, weddings, special occasions. The pictures parade and celebrate the lives they represent. The lives going by too quickly as we learn more with the passing of each year. All of this is well and good. A spot of fun to pass the time, I suppose. That is, until it’s your own face staring back at you; in a photo of a person you barely recognize. And one you would just as soon forget.
This happened to me this week. Throwback Thursday became my Freaky Friday. My typical morning arrested in a suspenseful showdown between me and, well, me. A younger, former, and tragically inclined me. My Facebook page had been hijacked in the night, while I slept unaware of what would befall me in the morning. I unwittingly became the target of a #tbt photo bomb, courtesy of the nifty (involuntary) tagging feature. Thank you, Facebook.
So what? What’s the big deal? It’s just a picture. A picture of a young girl with hair half as tall as she is, holding a Budweiser she wasn’t even old enough to drink. To the people sharing it, it’s just a good memory. Fun times we shared. It might even be hurtful to them that I didn’t share in their reaction. But, you see, the thing about skeletons is we mostly like to keep them in the dark. The thing about becoming a Christian later in life is coming to terms with your past. The fact that you had one, and it’s not something you like to talk about much. And you certainly don’t want it spread around on Facebook. When I look at the girl in the photo, I feel shame. I am not proud of the way I lived then. I feel sadness and regret. I see a girl who lived recklessly, foolishly. I see a girl who liked to drink a lot of Budweiser because she didn’t know that beer could never fill the emptiness inside.
I think today I might be having a mini-victory on this front. In the past, I would have freaked out about any glimpse into my past. I would have been consumed with guilt, and worried about what others would think of me. I would imagine their sneering, “And you call yourself a Christian!” I would have feared judgment. I’ve been accused of being a hypocrite before. And maybe I have been. I have struggled to look back without getting sucked into the emotional undertow of self-condemnation. I’ve allowed my past to manipulate me and have power over me in the present. The enemy has often used this tactic to keep me down, or at least circling the wagons in my constant reputation watch.
A hypocrite is someone who pretends to be something they are not, or to not be something they are. Today, I am declaring a moratorium on pretense. Betcha didn’t see that one coming, Satan. I am done pretending. I am a sinner saved by grace. No more, but no less. I am Christian with a past. I am not proud of the person I once was. The look back is still painful. But I am not that girl anymore – by the grace of God. I boast only in Jesus, my Lord and Savior; the One who loved me enough to reach into my drunkenness and offer me life-giving drink. Jesus satisfies my thirsty soul and fills me with unspeakable joy. Jesus covers my past, present, and future by His own blood, which has bought me eternal redemption.
To those who struggle with feelings of shame, grief, guilt, and regret over your past, be freed from your suffering. There is no condemnation in Christ Jesus. Jesus speaks the Word of a better covenant over you, “Take heart, daughter…your faith has healed you”. That healing is head to toe; every part of your past, present, and future. We are made well in Jesus. The text reads, “And the woman was healed from that moment” (Matthew 9:22).
Behold, Jesus makes all things new. “If anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has gone, the new has come!” (2 Corinthians 5:17). We are no longer victims to our past. We are more than conquerors through Him who loved us. “She is clothed with dignity and strength; she can laugh at the days to come” (Proverbs 31:25). We can press on by those throwback Thursdays, and press into Victory Sunday. Jesus lives, and through Him we have been raised to new life by the same power. God’s power and grace. Remember the empty tomb when you are fearful of the dead bones in your past. When Jesus raised Lazarus from the dead, He said, “Take off the grave clothes and let him go”. It’s time we shed the rags of the past and walk in the newness of life we have received “through Him who loved me and gave Himself for me” (Galatians 2:20).
#tbt swallowed up in #vs