Sometimes People Get Stuck in the Past
For you did not receive the spirit of slavery to fall back into fear, but you have received the Spirit of adoption as sons, by whom we cry, “Abba! Father!” The Spirit himself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God…(Romans 8:15-16).
I lived in Louisville, Kentucky, for several years. I visited a number of veterans at the veterans’ hospital there. These were brave, courageous men who had put their lives on the line in service to our country. They came back from war deeply scarred and traumatized emotionally. These guys struggled with readjusting to normal life. That’s why they were in the hospital.
Carrying on a conversation with them was difficult for me. They were absorbed in the past. Day after day, they relived the horrors of their war experience. It looped through their minds like a 3-D movie. They hadn’t found a way to turn off the projector.
Those who say they can’t forgive themselves are somewhat like these veterans. They have allowed their past to define who they are today. Rather than seeing themselves through God’s act of grace toward them, they see themselves in light of their sins. They may verbalize their identity in Christ, but in their hearts they are holding tightly to their identity as sinners.
They don’t go around broadcasting their self-perception. No one knows they are carrying the label of adulterer or thief or addict. They keep it secret because they are scared to death of how people will react if they find out the “truth.” They wear masks to keep people away from the truth. They don’t give people a chance to love them for who they really are. They don’t give God a chance to love them for who they really are.
But you can’t hide behind a mask with God. He knows, and your track record doesn’t change what he thinks about you and what he has recreated you to be. The gospel changes who you are. Your identity changed the moment you trusted Jesus Christ. You were born into the family of God and adopted as a son. You are brand-new and bear the name “child of God.”
You may not feel or act like a child of God at times, but that does not change the truth. God is so committed to you knowing your new identity, he sent his Spirit to live in you to make it real in your heart (Romans 8:15-16).
You are forever connected to the love of Jesus Christ. Nothing can separate you from his love. You are a forgiven, totally loved child of God.
My friend John Lynch says, “When I wear a mask, the only thing that gets loved is the mask, not the real me.” I encourage you to take the mask off. Take the chance of letting others love you for who you really are. You might find that they will love you more than you ever dreamed or imagined.
God is rifling his grace right at you. Don’t miss it. Open your heart and let his forgiveness pour in and free you from your past. Let his grace rip away the guilt and shame. Let his love set you on the path of genuinely living out who you are in Jesus Christ.