I’ve contemplated whether or not I should share this. Not only has this been a difficult season, but it has also been a humbling one. I take pride in being able to do things for myself, to be able to bless others and help them when they are in need. So to be in a position where others have had to help us in numerous ways has humbled me and made me so incredibly grateful. It has also restored my hope in the goodness of mankind.
But for some reason, there are certain aspects of my life that I still desire to look like I have it all together. In reality, I don’t. I’m far from perfect. Most of the time I’m just a hot mess held together by lots of grace and prayer.
So I was afraid to share this part of our lives, because it would be vulnerable. A vulnerability that I’m not yet comfortable with. But, I’ve discovered that my pride only robs God of receiving glory, even in the most intimate parts of my life.
Let me start by going back to two weeks ago. Probably around the time of my last blog post. Shelby had a job opportunity that he had been preparing for for about a month. It required a written and physical test along with an extensive background check that included 54 pages of intrusive questions about things he had done in his past, dating back to before we had even met.
When I met Shelby, he had been a Christian for a few years. He wasn’t raised in a Christian home and had spent a decade in the nightclub scene before he felt the Lord telling him to get out of that environment.
Now before you get all judgy (like I initially was), it was actually through a church that was started at the nightclub that Shelby came to know the Lord. I remember in the early days, when he and I were just casually dating, struggling with his past. Never in a million years would I have dreamed of being with someone like Shelby. I was always the good kid, the goodie two shoes (which some people even called me in high school). So his previous lifestyle was new territory to me, even though we would later learn that my brother shared a somewhat similar lifestyle.
But I remember the day when the Lord spoke clearly to me about Shelby and his past. I was substitute teaching at my old elementary school. It was a Christian school and that day the kids had chapel, and as I sat in the wooden pew singing about the B.I.B.L.E. this verse came to mind, “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come: The old has gone, the new is here!” (1 Corinthians 5:17).
From that day on, I looked at Shelby with a new perspective. Fresh eyes that saw him as a new creation in Christ. His old, former way of life, was gone. He was now a living, breathing testimony of what Christ can do to a life that is surrendered to God.
But unlike God who forgives our past and makes all things new, people don’t easily forget those things. They hold them against you as a reminder that you messed up.
So two weeks ago, after Shelby had passed his test for the job he was applying for, he was pulled aside and told that because of the things he had done in his past, he was automatically disqualified from moving forward. Even though it had been over a decade and a half since he’d done those things, it was as if he couldn’t shake the things that were his former way of life.
We all mess up. Fall short. Make grievous mistakes that we can’t seem to escape. Was it true he had done those things? Absolutely. Can he change what he’s done in the past? Absolutely not. Can he make better choices? He already has and will continue to do so.
Society might hold your past against you and you might feel as though you are just stuck in this perpetual cycle of bad choices. There’s no way out. This is just your lot in life. No matter what you do, there’s nothing you can do to change things in the past.
I wish that we (myself included) would see that people have the capacity to change. That through the power of the Holy Spirit, people can be redeemed from their pasts. God can bring people to repentance and what was their former way of life is just that, former. The old is gone. It’s a complete 180 from the direction they were going in. God can and does make all things new.
So I’ve walked in this tension the past two weeks and just the other day received a letter in the mail that brought me to tears. Because of Shelby’s emergency surgery we have had this outstanding medical bill looming over our heads for the past few months. I saw on the back of the bill that we could apply for financial aid.
Remember my pride issue I mentioned earlier. This is my area of struggle. It’s embarrassing that we are at a place in life where we can’t take care of our own medical bills. Where people have helped us financially through this entire ordeal, and I’ve just had to swallow my pride and learn to receive blessings from others with gratitude. It’s hard to be on the receiving end of a hand out. Maybe there are those who don’t mind it and feel entitled to it, but it makes me uncomfortable.
After applying for financial aid, I didn’t hear back, so I had to keep following up on it with no answers. I figured that we would probably just be denied and be stuck with this bill of thousands of dollars we didn’t have. That, plus the devastating news of being disqualified from what seemed like our last job option, made me grow bitter.
Bitter to see everyone else living their #bestlifenow. Upset when someone told me how God works all things for good when their husband was also let go, only to discover he already had a job lined up and would never experience this valley we have been walking through for so long. Frustrated to see others living the life I rightfully felt should of been ours because we had been more faithful, obedient….(self)-righteous!!!
So when I opened the envelope, I figured it was just another sorry reminder that we were poor, jobless, and destitute. I should be used to it by now, but it still hurts to be reminded of the painful condition your life is in. But instead, it was a letter of acceptance. The financial aid had been approved and our balance was zero. We owed nothing. The debt was paid.
This is where God shows up. He always shows up, but in that moment I burst into tears. Yes, I was relieved that we didn’t have to pay the thousands of dollars left on our hospital bill, but God also revealed to me that this is how he views our sin, our past, the things that disqualify us from life. Christ, in his mercy and grace, pays the debt we owe. He doesn’t care about our past, instead He wipes it clean. He declares us new creations, not because of any of our works (which are like filthy rags) but because of His undeserved mercy and grace.
It’s like the hymn:
All to Him I owe
Jesus paid it all
Sin had left a crimson stain
He washed it white as snow
We all have things in our past. Things that disqualify us from life, but praise God that He doesn’t just toss us aside and leave us that way. No, He provides a better way because He is the only way. I’m so glad that what the world may reject and discard, Jesus died on the cross for and redeems as His own.
Side note: I’ve realized that the very things my pride has made me ashamed of are the very things that boast of Christ’s power at work in my life. I need to allow Christ to use my weaknesses so that I can boast about His power. For it is when I am at my weakest, that I am strong. (2 Corinthians 12:9-10).