Now it came about when Pharaoh had let the people go, that God did not lead them by the way of the land of the Philistines, even though it was near; for God said, “Lest the people change their minds when they see war, and they return to Egypt” (Ex. 13:17).
If you are like me you are probably confronted with choices, of one type or another, each and every day.
This morning I had a choice of what coffee I wanted to drink. That was a simple one that really didn’t affect my life or that of those around me. But, some choices that we make change our lives in profound ways.
Sometimes we look back on life and realize that we made a bad choice. That choice may have affected not only our lives but also the lives of those around us for years and years.
Some of you know that my favorite secular quote is that of the poet Maya Angelo. I keep it on a “post it” note in my bible. It reads, “You did what you knew how to do, when you knew better you did better.” The Word says in Romans 8:1 “Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.”
On Memorial Day one year there was a real tragedy in the little town we were living in, in Colorado, at the time. A life long resident, a known alcoholic in his middle fifties, shot and killed his wife and then did an overdose of prescription medications and killed himself. This couple had known each other since they went to school together and they had five children and several grandchildren.
A week or so later there was a letter to the editor of the newspaper. I am often shocked at life in a small town. The kinds of letters they printed there would not ever be printed in the newspaper of a large town, for fear of lawsuits. But a small town is another world, and I came to expect to see anything in print there and often did
The person writing the letter was one of the young sons of this couple. He was telling people to quit gossiping about his family. He was telling them his mom and dad were good people who had helped many other people in need. He was telling them that alcohol was not a good thing, and that it is what actually killed his mother and father. He then mentioned he was, himself, in jail and when he got out he didn’t want to hear anyone talking about his family.
I cried when I read that letter. My first instinct was to go down to the jail and ask to see that young man. I wanted to throw my arms around him and let him know that I knew how he felt. I wanted to tell him about Jesus and how Jesus was a man himself that was acquainted with unfair sorrow.
I know what’s its like to live in a small town and have a parent who is the town drunk. I grew up, in my grade school years, in a small town in Texas. My mother was the town drunk. I remember that, at that time, it snowed so much in that town we could have three and four-foot snow drifts. I distinctly remember the time my mother was drunk early in the morning and didn’t dress me properly to walk to school. I had no socks on with my little Mary Jane flat shoes, and was sent out the door to walk to school in those deep snowdrifts. My feet were red, swollen and numb by the time I got to school. Upon seeing that my teacher went to get another teacher and I can still see them in my mind as they stood there and whispered and pointed at me. Never once did they come and offer to help, never once did they get a towel and dry my feet. I remember that I felt shame. I felt as if it were somehow my fault. That shame led to years of low self-esteem and it also led me to rebel against authority figures, which I saw as those two gossipy teachers in my mind.
Now, you would have thought that seeing my mother drunk for years, until she found AA and remained sober for the next 25 years of her life, would have been enough for me to say to myself, “I will never take a drink, ever.” But like the young man above I too found myself in trouble with alcohol at one point in my life.
Satan meant my early life to destroy me. It didn’t because God had his hands on me. Sometimes we look back at our bad choices and say, “God why did you let me go through all of that?”
On the day I read that letter to the editor it became crystal clear to me “why.” Someone could go up to that young man and say, “I am so sorry for what you have been through!” and he might think, “That’s, nice but you don’t have a clue.”
On the other hand, all the hurt and all the shame I had gone through had prepared me for this one thing, this one time that I could go up to this young man, throw my arms around him and say, “I know what you are going through, brother. I have been there.”
All our hurts in life, all our wrong choices, can be used by God to help other people. I have noticed that when you minister to someone it is often useless if you cannot get past your pride and be “real” with him or her.
I hear people tell me, “I was raised in a Christian home, where the bible was preached on a daily basis, I have been saved my whole life.” Well, isn’t that wonderful. I am happy for you, but you don’t have a heart for hurting people. Unless you can drop the pride and admit that you aren’t perfect, no one is going to listen to you. Those types of people often make better teachers then counselors.
It’s only in the hard trenches experiences that we learn compassion for those who go though the same things.
So today, we know better. We make better choices. But we don’t hide the bad choices under a bush and hope the other “perfect” Christians don’t discover our pasts. Instead we use those things to rescue another person that God has sent us to, to tell our story. To let them see how God turned our lives around, and give them hope that He is able to do the same thing for them!
In His Never-Ending Love,