During college, I did a stint as a DJ intern for a Christian radio station. It was a mostly fantastic experience, except for one listener who phoned in often. I can’t remember her name, so I’ll call her Mrs. Grievance. She told me once that she considered it her “ministry” to call and let us know when we’d made mistakes, such as allowing dead air for a few seconds. Um, thanks? It took all the professional courtesy I could muster not to tell her off. Mrs. Grievance never called to say anything positive; it was only to complain.
Have you ever felt like the only thing people will remember you for is your mistakes? At least your mistakes haven’t been recorded for people to rehash and study a few thousand years after the fact, like folks in the Bible. Think about the most scandalous stories in the Bible (and if you can’t think of any, then you might do a name search for Hosea, Rahab, and Bathsheba, for starters … never let it be said that the Bible is boring reading!). It’s one thing to be called out for messing up on a radio show; it’s quite another thing to have history give an account of your life as a prostitute.
The Bible isn’t just some sassy novel, though. There’s a reason for these stories, and we can learn something from them. One of the overarching themes in the Bible is God’s amazing love for us, and another thread that runs very clearly throughout the whole text is redemption. God doesn’t just love us when we behave properly. He wants to restore our relationship with him, even when we’ve run far away.
Our past mistakes don’t define us, and they certainly don’t put God in a box. He can use even the messiest gunk in our lives and turn it into a redemptive story of his grace. Praise God, we aren’t stuck in the past! As Peter wrote, “You have spent enough time in the past doing what ungodly people choose to do. You lived a wild life” (1 Peter 4:3a, NIRV). In another letter, he added: “He [God] has also given us his very great and valuable promises. He did it so you could share in his nature. He also did it so you could escape from the evil in the world. That evil is caused by sinful longings” (2 Peter 1:4, NIRV).
Don’t worry about the Mrs. Grievances in your life. The past is history, and it doesn’t claim a hold on you if you don’t let it. Give your mistakes, your poor choices, your flat-out sins to the Lord and focus on how he can use you, going forward.