All things can serve a purpose. No matter how benign the intentions, they can be used for good or for evil.
Take, for example, a fence. It serves a purpose—delineates where “mine” ends and “yours” begins. It can keep things out. It can harbor things in. Fences come in all shapes and sizes. Some are old, wooden and war weathered, some are new, shiny, white and expensive, some are reinforced and some are hastily repaired, others are simple metal chain link and showing their all to those outside. Some are just nice “curb appeal” and for show.
I recently visited my home town of Arvada, CO. Lacing up my running shoes and bundling up for the CO weather, I hit the familiar streets. Step by step, house by house, fence by fence, I was flooded by memories. First, I passed my grade school music teacher’s house. His yard is bordered by a wooden slat fence. Why didn’t he stop our trio of Jenny, Debbie and me from publicly slaughtering our version of Barry Manilow’s “You know I can’t smile without you” in the choir assembly?
Next I passed by my track coach’s house. His yard is surrounded by a split rail, easy to see in. He trained me out of my weakened condition after I got mono and into many first place finishes in the 400 yard dash in Jr. high school.
Around another corner or two and I am at Mr., Tinsley’s house. Metal mesh and wood show the well kept yard and the puffy white dog owned by the science teacher who we would inevitably run into at the KarmelKorn shop as we were lured in by the silky caramel smell every time we visited King Soopers.
Up and down streets, past houses and yards filled with stories, some good and some not so good. Back then, I didn’t have a relationship with Jesus and made some questionable decisions. Every time I return home, I battle with these memories. Even though I have been blessed with so many wonderful times, why do those bad memories have a way of not letting go? I struggle with forgiving myself for the sins and selfishness of my past and with the poor decisions I made.
I liken this to those sturdily built fences. The ones you can’t even peek in between the slats and those that can certainly look nice and pretty to the outside world. They hold everything in and don’t allow for the world to see in. But they also won’t let anything out. The fence of unforgiveness has no gate.
Now that I know Jesus Christ, I read in 2 Corinthians 5:17 that, “This means that anyone who belongs to Christ has become a new person. The old life is gone; a new life has begun!”
This is one of the many things I love about being a Christ follower. By confessing these things to a loving God and accepting that Christ already paid the price for me, I am new. I now make decisions from a different place than I did before. Jesus makes it safe for me to allow people to see between the slats of my fence. No condemnation.
I am getting better at those decisions, but following Jesus doesn’t mean I am perfect. And it doesn’t necessarily mean this struggle to forgive myself is locked away in my past.
As I allow people into my life and let them see some of my ugly scars, warts and boils, I think of those fences that have been weathered, beaten, and that you can see some of the yard work needing to be done and the peeling façade of the house behind there. Repentance and conviction are not easy tasks. It is an on-going battle.
With Christ, I am grateful to read, “The faithful love of the Lord never ends! His mercies never cease. Great is his faithfulness; his mercies begin afresh each morning. I say to myself, ‘The Lord is my inheritance; therefore, I will hope in him!’” (Lamentations 3: 22)
New every morning?—I need that! (I say to myself “Thank GOD!”) as I allow mercy to freshen my façade. And with Jesus, He won’t give up on me until He has finished the good work in me He started.
Back when I lived in Colorado (and since I used to be an “equal opportunity dater,”) scattered along my running route are more old boyfriends’ houses than I care to re-count.
I wonder if they know I am a new creation in Christ?
Do they forgive me or still harbor unforgiveness about my decisions and actions like I often do for myself?
–At this point in my run, I do my speed work, accelerating my pace so if they see me they can’t recognize me.
The fence I see around this area of my life is as the concrete border of a prison, topped with barbed wire.
My mind clicks through some very painful memories, like firing off ammunition in a high powered rifle.
Every time I “put myself out there,” I consider what those whom I have “wronged” might say. I want to stay behind that concrete, protected by the walls and wires of the prison. Yet I also read that “You are the light of the world –like a city o a hilltop that cannot be hidden. No one lights a lamp and puts it under a basket. Instead, a lamp is placed on a stand, where it gives light to everyone in the house.” (Matthew 5:14)
There is a lot of unknown out there as I venture into a more public sphere of sharing who I am in Christ.
Anytime you “show your light to the world,” allowing them to see the dark shadows of your past or even the present mistakes, there is the strong probability the world will judge you, mock you, convict you and lock you away, behind the walls of unforgiveness.
But we don’t have to remain prisoners to our pasts, our decisions, or our sins and selfishness. The Bible tells us Jesus has redeemed us. REDEMPTION: “the act of saving something or somebody from a declined, dilapidated, or corrupted state and restoring it, him or her to a better condition” and also, “deliverance from the sins of humanity by the death of Jesus Christ on the Cross” (Encarta Dictionary).
Because of what Jesus did those 2000 years ago, we are redeemed. Jesus breaks down the walls and shows each of us a way out.
“But the gateway to life is very narrow and the road is difficult, and only a few ever find it.”( Matthew 7:14)
As I run down the avenues of my past and climb the hills of my journey, reminiscing over regrets, I am struck with a visualization of Golgotha – the hill where my battered, bloody savior hung on a cross between two thieves to free me from my self-constructed prison walls and to allow me to choose His gate.
I remind myself of my newness, my redemption, my choice. I travel in the freedom of a verse that I now consider “my motto:”
“I don’t mean to say that I have already achieved these things or that I have already reached perfection. But I press on to possess that perfection for which Christ Jesus first possessed me. No dear brothers and sisters, I have not achieved it, but I focus on this one thing: Forgetting the past and looking forward to what lies ahead, I press on to reach the end of the race and receive the heavenly prize for which God, through Christ Jesus, is calling us.” (Philippians 4:12)
I will continue to make mistakes. I will probably continue to struggle with my past, but I promise to continue to run this race clinging to Jesus and focusing on what He is calling me to do.
And to that I say, “Amen.”