"Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come: the old has gone, the new is here!"
2 Corinthians 5:17
As time goes by and we live out our lives, the chapters of our life story are constantly being written. Some chapters bring us joy and good memories. Others bring heartache, and many times feelings of guilt and shame.
One of the biggest obstacles in my spiritual life so far has been overcoming my past...forgiving myself for the things that I did before Christ made me new. It has been through the difficult process of self-forgiveness that the true power of God's redeeming love has been revealed to me.
To briefly summarize my testimony, I began struggling with self-hatred, severe depression, and suicidal thoughts at the age of nine, which escalated into a lot of self-destructive behavior in my teenage years, mostly in the form of cutting myself from the ages of thirteen through seventeen. There were times of eating disorders in there as well, and a suicide attempt that I will be forever grateful to have survived. Having gone through all of these struggles and incidents by the age of seventeen, I felt constantly weighed down by every horrible thing that I had already done in my young life. When I was eighteen, a Christian saved and forgiven by God, no longer engaging in constant self-destruction, I found myself still living in a state of unending shame. I was living in constant guilt over what I had done to myself and the hurt that I had caused to those close to me. I would wake up in the morning, see my scarred arms, and instantly be reminded of four years of shameful actions that I deeply regretted. I never doubted God's forgiveness, but it wasn't enough to make me forgive myself. I wasn't hurting my body with blades anymore, but I was hurting my mind and spirit with shame and unforgiveness.
I used to pray every single day that I could hide the parts of my past that couldn't be seen on my skin. I prayed that God would erase the scars off of my body, that my skin would be as unmarked as the day before I first inflicted cuts upon my own body. I wanted to hide and erase the past that I had been saved from, suppress it and pretend it had never happened. If it came up, I would simply make it into a joke so it wouldn't seem so bad and dark. It wasn't until I realized how much shame my own testimony brought me that I finally realized that I couldn't deal with my past on my own. I remember the first time that I surrendered and changed my prayer, when I asked that God would use my scars instead of begging Him to get rid of them. It was the beginning of my past no longer being a story of shame, but healing and redemption.
Everyone who has accepted Christ has a story, a past from before they were renewed by God. Honestly, it seems sort of easy to just give my present and my future to God, letting go of the anxieties that come with them. Yet it is seemingly so much more difficult to give God my past. It's the past, it's over...I thought, "I can handle it myself", but I couldn't. None of us can. Without God, the past is a heavy weight. It will create shame that will follow you into your new life, hindering the joy and light that we are called to live in as children of God. When you give your past to God and forgive yourself, that will begin the process of healing. When every mistake is in God's hands instead of on your shoulders, and you finally let go of the shame of what you have done, you can truly begin living in freedom as the new creation that you are. Your days of living under the burden of shame will cease and become a life of living joyously, healed, redeemed, and unashamed.