In a few short days I will be returning to the place I first launched into adulthood. I dread the journey though I am fairly certain the anticipation of being there is going to be worse than actually being there. At least, I hope it will be.
You see, I am a bible believing, saved by grace through faith in Jesus Christ alone Christian now. I only briefly toyed at being one when I lived in the town I am returning to. Without understanding the gospel and having a theological clue, the best that you can do is play at being a Christian. I have a lot of history back there that is painful to remember. I am not that young stupid woman any more and I am not anxious to be reminded of stories about what I did when I was. There are things I did, choices I made in the moments of what I had mistaken for passion or principle and now know were nothing more than drunken self-indulgence and hubris, that I regret. I am ashamed of them. Deeply ashamed.
I don't want to see people who are expecting the woman I used to be, but that's not the worst of it. There are people I will have to apologize to and that's still not the worst of it. The worst of it is I don't trust my choices now. There's a reason "Come Thou Fount" is my favorite hymn. I am prone to wander. I feel it. I don't want to see people who may act as catalysts for that other woman I used to be to return. And as long as I am being honest, I am also vain enough to tell you that I haven't aged well and hate going back to have people talk smack about how much weight I have gained and how old I look. Mostly though, it's that I am not the woman that they knew, and I am grateful to God for the change.
What do we do when we are filled with regret? What do we do when for reasons beyond our control and that rest in God's sovereignty, we have to go back to the scene of the crimes we have committed against Him? How do we find the balance between having no more condemnation and exercising the humility necessary to make amends with those we've hurt in the process? None of us sin in a vacuum. Our sin, like ripples in a fetid pool of water, starts out with us and spreads out to others; sin makes secondary victims or collateral damage. It is the 'gift' that keeps on 'giving.'
I have been more than a little anxious about finding this balance. This morning I realized how selfishly I was considering all this. It's not like God is trying to rub my nose in the filth of my youthful choices. Perhaps I am being sent back as a display of God's glory and mercy. Perhaps this is not about teaching me a single thing but about showing them the difference He makes in the lives of those He calls out of darkness. And while it may be a little uncomfortable for me, it won't be as uncomfortable as hell. That's where I was headed when last I encountered these old friends of mine. That's where they may still be headed and if my God chooses to use a short, fat old woman like me to display the difference His grace and forgiveness make in the lives of sinners, what greater honor might I be given?
1 Out of the depths I have cried to Thee, O LORD.
2 Lord, hear my voice! Let Thine ears be attentive to the voice of my supplications.
3 If Thou, LORD, shouldst mark iniquities, O Lord, who could stand?
4 But there is forgiveness with Thee, that Thou mayest be feared.
5 I wait for the LORD, my soul does wait, and in His word do I hope.