I'm Not Who I Was

This week's post by Theresa Adams

Our boys are six and almost nine. That means we are departing from the little boys stage and entering into the big boy stage. Our kids are the ones now finding out ways to climb on top of the play structures at parks. They are the ones occasionally rolling their eyes and learning what boundaries they can push. They are the ones asking for house keys and cell phones (No. Just no.) As we learn to navigate this new season of parenthood it is tricky to not look too much ahead to where we hope our kids to be and wish them out of where they are. It is a balance to not get down on them so hard that we don't remember where they were. It's easier to point out what they still have to work on then it is to praise them for what they've done. It takes being intentional to not compare them against another kids progress. To remember that they will all learn math, eventually. They'll all be able to run a certain amount of laps at one point. How and when they get there just varies.

That's kind of how we are with spiritual growth, isn't it? Although no calendar or time piece can measure our growth we are constantly focused on where we should be or where we think God wants us to be that it overshadows where we are coming from. We get down on ourselves for not being at a certain point yet that we can forget where we've been. We continue to get down on ourselves for not  spending more time reading our Bible, for not knowing as much as we should, for being too short with a friend, for not being as quick to forgive. We can spend so much time on the "woulda" and "coulda" and even "shouldas" that we completely forget what once was. We lose sight of where we've been. Instead of thinking, gosh, it's a miracle I'm even here. Getting to live this life. Spending time doing these things. We just focus on what we aren't doing. How we aren't living.

In her book, For The Love, Jen Hatmaker says: "You are doing a better job than you think. Self-criticism sometimes improves best practices, but it can also lie to you and probably has. You may need to ignore your mind and watch yourself for awhile." She goes on to say, "Condemnation is a trick of the enemy, not the language of the heavens. Shame is not God's tool, so if we are slaves to it, we're way off the beaten path. And it is harsh out there, debilitating actually. If you inner monologue is critical, endlessly degrading, it's time to move back to grace."

Grace. "The love and mercy given to us by God, because God desires us to have it not because of anything we have done to earn it." What if, instead of thinking about how far we still have to go, shaming ourselves for not being there yet, we take a minute to think about how far we've come? What if instead of beating ourselves up we soak in the grace that's so freely available to us.  As Rob said recently " Change isn't just possible it a guarantee."  I don't know about you, but that is some good news.The good news is that God isn't looming over us with a measuring stick. Tapping his watch, saying "tisk-tisk" that we aren't "there" yet. Rather I'm starting to believe He's actually waiting over us cheering us on. Seeing growth in us that we don't see in ourselves. Elbowing the angels "did you see that? That ones mine."

I recently had a friend ask me some questions about my past. She had heard bits and pieces over the years. But she wanted more. In talking to her and sharing with her it made me realize just how far away I am from where I once was. Isn't that amazing? Not in a look-at-me-and-what-I-have-done sort of way, but in a wow God sure has been graceful with me sort of way. Does this mean we look back with regret? Does this mean we look back and glorify some sordid past? No. We don't even need to dwell there. But, what we can do is glance back and see the progress of what we've, with the Holy Spirit, have made and look forward to what's to come.

I am a miracle. And so are you. Perhaps your past isn't nearly as checkered as mine. Still it's just as amazing you are here. Whatever your "here" looks like if you are keeping your eyes on Jesus most likely it looks a lot different than your "there."  Last time someone wronged you were you a bit quicker to forgive? Did you hand out grace instead of disfavor? That's remarkable. Are you becoming quicker to repent? More sensitive to sin? Amazing. Do you have a growing interest in God? Are you wanting to learn more about Him than you did a year ago? 5 years ago?  Are you finding it easier to love others? Were you able to stuff your selfishness aside and give of yourself to someone when you didn't feel like that? That's a miracle right there. All of the steps no matter how minute or mighty are worth celebrating.

What if we were better at celebrating? What if we were just as quick to share our triumphs as we were our failings? I think we can all agree life is hard. All the more reason to lean in to others when we see growth. When we recognize something in someone that wasn't once there. When we can say "I'm not who I was." Let's not just get together when we need prayer or when we are struggling or when life is seeming too much. Let's not discount the steps we take no matter if mammoth or mini. A step is a step. One step closer to the person God is shaping you to be.

In our family we have started to celebrate when our kids are courageous. When they try new things or when they don't give up on a difficult situation. We look ahead for those opportunities with expectancy and anticipation. Why should it be any different with us and our walks with God? If we know Him and believe in Him then we ought to look forward with expectancy to the works He will do in us.

And I am sure of this, that he who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ. 
Philippians 1:6