Someone once told me that you are a combination of the things that you’ve experienced. The things that you’ve done – the things that have been done to you – that’s what makes you who you are. And for a long time I accepted this as truth. I mean, it made sense, right?
At least that’s what I thought.
This notion of I am what I’ve done or I am what’s been done to me gives the enemy a way to use our past as a way to bring shame into the parts of our lives that we can no longer change (or may not have had control over in the first place). If we succumb to the idea that we are simply a compilation of all our experiences, we give in to the false reality that we can never see redemption and healing to the areas that need it.
Now, I’m not saying that your past doesn’t effect you. The things you experience can have a profound effect on the person you turn out to be, and they can shape your beliefs, feelings, and your perceptions of others in a heartbeat. However, when we experience great joy or great suffering (or anything in between), we have a choice to make. You see, your experiences can affect you, but they don’t have to become who you are. We have to ask: Does this speak to my identity, to who I was created to be?
For years I tried desperately to independently overcome the shame I felt from the hurt in my past. I thought that if I just tried hard enough I could push past the ache in my heart and I would get to a “normal” life. But no matter how bull-headed I was, I could not power my way through the lie I was believing about myself. Shame permeated into every part of my life no matter how much I didn’t want it there, and there was no way to face it on my own. The only true way to deal with shame is to face it head-on with the truth of who God calls you and how God redeems us, because no amount of futile personal attempts to cleanse ourselves of the shame of our pasts can lead to redemption.
In a false sense of humility, we tend to allow our negative experiences to be the source of identity creation rather than looking to the Creator Himself. We wear a heavy veil of shame and discouragement that we were never meant to carry. We were not created to bow our heads in the weight of shame. The only reason we were created to bow our heads is in reverence of our Savior, one who has already taken care of the shame we’re trying so hard to carry. We have this misperception that we need to be shameful of the things we’ve done or experienced in order to convince God that we’re sorry. In all reality, the only thing God desires out of our past is for us to obediently give it to him and embrace its potential for reaching others.
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