I heard these words while sitting in a circle of beautiful, flawed, wonderful Christian girls. Girls who tried, but had fallen short at times. I saw recognition in the eyes of the others as they thought about things they had done, or said, or not done and wish they had, and nodded along with the girl who said what they had been too shy to say. Too scared to admit to a group of girls that they respected and admired that they weren’t always what they tried to look like when they were sitting in this circle.
And it hurt me. Broke my heart that in the (worthy) quest to encourage others to seek after Godliness, some had been left to feel like their sin had already ruled them out. That instead of hope, they just felt guilt.
So here’s my response. To her, and to anyone else who has ever felt like their past is bigger than their future:
I understand. You hurt because of your mistakes and you hurt because you worry that this is it. You would change what you’ve done if you could, but you can’t. You want to be the kind of Christian others can look up to, but you worry they’ll never look at you the same if they really knew everything about you.
Here’s the thing. God already knows everything about you. And He definitely still wants you. Remember the prodigal son (Luke 15:11)? How he embarrassed his family and betrayed their trust and sinned and fell lower than he ever though possible? Remember how ashamed he was? Remember how he volunteered to be his father’s servant because all he wanted was to be accepted back into his family but he didn’t know how to ask because he didn’t feel like he deserved it? Remember how his father’s only concern was just that he come back?
God wants you to come back. He’s not waiting to berate you on how far you’ve fallen, He’s just hoping to see you return.
And when you do, God can still use you. It’s no accident that God chose Paul. Paul, who had done awful things and orchestrated the murder of Christians, was shown mercy so that “Jesus Christ might display His perfect patience” (1 Tim. 1:16). Look what Paul went on to do. He was never proud of his mistakes, but was always proud to serve the type of God who could forgive and use him anyways. So he wanted to tell others. You can do the same. Others feel broken and need to be shown and to feel the same type of love and forgiveness.
But to do that, to make a change in your life and in others, you have to remember that God doesn’t want you to keep doing the same thing. I sometimes worry that there’s too much pride in saying that “we’re all sinners” and that we shouldn’t judge one another. Like once we’ve admitted it, that’s the only step we need to take and we don’t need to try to live better. We are all sinners and God doesn’t want us to judge hypocritically, but God wants us to live our best for Him. To constantly grow and try to be like Him and walk in His life. He doesn’t expect perfection but He does expect us to put Him above ourselves.
Basically, what I’m trying to tell you is it’s ok to move on. You are wanted. You are loved. By God. By the church. You’re a new creation. God doesn’t care about your past sin, He cares about changing your life and returning to Him.
Don’t worry and tell yourself that no one will ever be able to accept you if they knew the truth about you.
It’s not true.
Realize your mistakes and sins were just that: mistakes. Nothing can change that. But that doesn’t mean they have to define you. That only happens if you let them. You can change your future. Because of God’s grace and His willingness to see past that if you just ask.
Don’t let anyone else judging a part of you that you’ve left behind hold you back. If they try, that’s their sin to carry and not yours. No one has any right to see what God doesn’t.
So it’s up to you. You’re the only one who can decide whether or not to live with guilt or move on. God loves you. His people love you. I love you. I hope you allow yourself to love you too.