Overcoming the Past
by Stephen Sanders
I'm not saying that I have this all together, that I have it made. But I am well on my way, reaching out for Christ, who has so wondrously reached out for me. Friends, don't get me wrong: By no means do I count myself an expert in all of this, but I've got my eye on the goal, where God is beckoning us onward—to Jesus. I'm off and running, and I'm not turning back. - Philippians 3:12-14
Last night, I went to a college basketball game with my wife and kids. For the first time in a really long time, I was overwhelmed with a sense of not fitting in with those around me. As we sat and waited for the game to begin, my discomfort level steadily increased with every college kid that filled that arena. The clothing trends, the blaring hip-hop music and the camraderie between the students took me back to a place in time that I tend to block out. As I drove home, I couldn't help but ponder all the pressures of my teenage years.
Now don't get me wrong, I love to reminisce about the good ole days just as much as the next guy. I think we all have at least a few fond memories that cause us to close our eyes and think about the things that we really miss. For example, if you are anything like me, there will never be a better era for music than when I was in high school.
Grunge bands like Smashing Pumpkins, Soundgarden and Stone Temple Pilots were still cranking out mainstream hits. Bands like Incubus and Rage Against the Machine were at the forefront of what would soon be called the Nu Metal movement. And I was still faithfully rockin' that same green flannel shirt from middle school. Yep, those were the days…
The good memories are something that I revisit quite frequently at this point in my life. After all, I am in my 30s now, and I am getting a gray hair or two in the old beard. I even noticed the other day that I'm starting to make strange grunting noises when I sit down or stand up, like I'm in pain or something. What's up with that?!?! I also have a teenager living in my house, which never fails to take me back to all that teenage drama. My point is: it's fun to think about the fun stuff, but usually not so fun to relive the not-so-fun stuff.
For me, the not-so-fun side of high school was being the loner. Now I'm not talking about that super cool James Dean or even that Arthur Fonzarelli kind of loner/rebel. See, I was always the guy in high school who didn't really fit in with anyone; at least, I never felt like I did anyway.
It's funny because I don't tend to be that way anymore. Since I became a Christian in 2002, I feel like I've slowly become more confident in who I am. I don't tend to be so concerned about how other people perceive me, but rather try to understand that everyone has been created differently; that all we have control over is ourselves and how we choose to interact with the other 7 billion people on planet earth.
So, last night as I drove home from the game, I asked God to help me learn from what I was feeling. Why was I so uncomfortable and so bitter towards these strangers? What was it about this event that made me so judgmental towards people who I knew absolutely nothing about? It's funny because I didn't get a direct answer from God. All I can tell you is that I had a peace about what I was feeling. The sin within myself that had stunned me just a few hours prior had now been covered by the promise of my Savior. It was no more a part of my life than that hideous green flannel shirt my wife threw out years ago.
Intersecting Faith and Life:
The difficult things in life, past, present of future, all pale in comparison to the joy we have found in Jesus Christ. In Philippians 4:11-13, Paul said, "…I have learned in whatever situation I am to be content. I know how to be brought low, and I know how to abound. In any and every circumstance, I have learned the secret of facing plenty and hunger, abundance and need. I can do all things through him who strengthens me."
Today, my hope is that, no matter how good or bad our circumstance is, that we choose to focus on the strength that is available to us in Christ.
For Further Reading: Philippians 3 & 4