Revelations: Confronting the past
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BY JENNIFER PREYSS
I never thought I'd be the kind of person who needed a 12-step program. In fact, I always sort of thanked God that my chancier teenage and early adulthood rebellions never became tremendous strongholds. Some were easier than others to overcome, but there could have been, and probably should have been, more than one occasion where I ended up in jail, or killed myself through acts of stupidity and recklessness. But when I found God, He slowly and sweetly brought about a change in my heart. Thankfully, that change spurred many positive behavioral changes in my life, but of course, God and me still have a ways to go.
When asked, I'm fairly open about where those changes started, and how they're continuing to progress, even now. But I'm always slightly guarded about the dirty details of my past. I'm confident God has forgiven me, but when discussing personal matters with man, I've found he tends to be a much less forgiving audience. And sadly, Christians can be some of the most judgmental of all. It takes a unique lover of God therefore, to truly look past a person's former self, former life, former mistakes, and see what God sees.
I pray for God's eyes all the time, both as a reminder of His ability to see me as flawless, and a motivation to look at His children (my earthly brothers and sisters) that way, no matter what they've done in the past. No matter what they continue to do in the present. I confess, it's not always an easy task.
Knowing how much I, and others struggle to remain absent of subconscious judgment, is at times why I'm reluctant to disclose details of pre-Jesus Jenny. I've worked it out with God years ago, and His opinion of me is truly all that matters. That's what I've been telling myself for a long time.
I'm not so sure anymore.
While visiting Celebrate Recovery at Faith Family Church this week for a story I'm working on about overcoming addictions with Jesus, I met Pastor Man. His enthusiasm and passion for God and leading people out of their addictions (whatever they are) was inspiring. I envied his ability to guide attendees in their transformation process. But most of all, I envied his ability to joke about his own dirty past in scathing detail and use it for God's kingdom.
"I used to smoke enough dope to get all of Victoria high," he said, describing the first in a series of formerly destructive vices. Drinking, adultery, prostitution and gambling were a few others.
Pastor Man told me he asked God one day why he went through so much "stuff," and God answered, "Because no one would listen to you if you didn't."
And he's right. Pastor Man would probably not be as effective as he is with the people who come through his 25-week Recovery courses if he couldn't draw parallels with their experiences. He couldn't reach out to others about their shame and addictions and abuse if he himself was shamefully hiding his past.
So, Pastor Man encouraged me to re-examine my reasons for keeping my past so locked up, and allowed me to consider whether I might benefit from a little 12-step recovery plan of my own.
Perhaps there are some hurts and shames that I need to confront after all.
I'm not sure I'm ready to start opening up about my past just yet, but maybe one day, I'll have the courage to minister openly about it like Pastor Man does. The victory I'm realizing, is in the transformation, my transformation, but how will anyone know divine transformation is possible if I keep one of God's blessings hidden? I'm thinking it over, but I'm not sure if I'm ready to honestly broach the question yet.
As I drove away, thinking about my conversation with Pastor Man, the most appropriate song came on the radio. It was Temper Trap's "Sweet Disposition," singing "Won't stop 'til it's over; won't stop 'til surrender."
Pastor Man surrendered to his past a long time ago. Maybe it's time I do the same.
Jennifer Preyss is a reporter for the Victoria Advocate. You can reach her at 361-580-6535 or firstname.lastname@example.org.