by Drew Hensley
Ghosts named regret, shame, humiliation, abuse and brokenness that come back to haunt us and tempt us with their well crafted lies that come wrapped up as indefensible truths.
We all have a past and that means we all have ghosts to defend against; not with some self-help jargon, white-knuckling fortitude, or three-step process, but with the unmovable power of grace. What I’ve come to realize more and more is that we are constantly living in this tension between the old and new. Yes, we believe that God forgives us enough to save us but we struggle to really believe at a mental and heart level that our past and even present regret, shame, humiliation, abuse and brokenness don’t define us. We’re constantly haunted by the voice that says, “you are what you’ve done or what’s been done to you and there’s no escape.” And if you’re anything like me, there are many days where this voice, this ghost of the past, is speaking so loudly and seems so real that it takes residence in our soul as a truth teller instead of being rejected as a habitual liar.
When We Listen…
Instead of speaking hypothetically, here are some of the dangers and pitfalls I’ve seen in my own life when I listen to the ghosts of my past. I immediately find myself paralyzed and pulled out of the present. I’m so caught up in grief, anxiety, or shame that I’m unable to give much to anyone else or have any desire to sit and commune with God. I also find myself overcompensating with works as a sort of “penance” where I’m convinced that the only way to appease these ghosts is to do enough good to make up for all of the bad that’s haunting me. Finally and unfortunately, I develop a distorted view of God where he look a lot less like a loving father and much more like a looming judge, shaking his head with disappointment and ready to sentence me to a life of wearing my past like a scarlet “A” that I can’t escape. Can you relate?
When We Live…
On the flip-side of the coin, when I reject the loud voice of my past and allow God to be the loudest voice in my present, I’m able to see a beautiful future filled with freedom. One of the most beautiful aspects of God’s grace in our life is that it’s not dependent on what I say about myself or what anyone else says about me; it’s all about what God says and just as importantly, who God says I am. Instead of overcomplicating this, at a fundamental level, here’s what God says. “And you, who were dead in your trespasses and the uncircumcision of your flesh, God made alive together with Him, having forgiven us all our trespasses, by canceling the record of debt that stood against us with its legal demands. This He set aside, nailing it to the cross. He disarmed the rulers and authorities and put them to open shame, by triumphing over them in Him.” (Colossians 2:13-15 ESV)
Jesus nailed your past to the cross! He literally took everything you’ve done/will do and everything that has/will be done against you and with His life, put it to death! Hear this, your identity is not your past. In Christ, here’s what God says about you. “God decided in advance to adopt us into His own family by bringing us to Himself through Jesus Christ. This is what He wanted to do, and it gave Him great pleasure” (Ephesians 1:5). Because of this…”Do not fear. I have redeemed you. I have summoned you. You are mine” (Isaiah 43:1).
Not matter what ghost of your past tries to haunt you or attempts to convince you of a false identity, God makes it clear; in Christ, you are and forever will be a beloved son or daughter, completely clean and forever forgiven. How is this true? Grace, upon grace, upon grace. The one thing louder than our past and spoken by a loving Father who has the power and authority to stand by His word with you, His child.