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A few years ago I posted some photos on Facebook that were taken when I was a teenager. The photos show me (at 17) and a friend posing with members of a heavy metal rock band. I posted them because members of my Sunday school class didn’t believe I had met the band (not only had I met them, but I got in free to their concerts because I was the VP of their ‘appreciation’ club). We had been sharing “little known facts” about ourselves, in an attempt to get to know each other better. A handful of people saw the photos, but the hub-bub quickly faded away.
Fast forward to last month, when my children mentioned to the youth pastor that I “knew the band.” Like so many others, he didn’t want to believe it. I went through my photo albums and ‘tagged’ him in the comments so they would show up in his notifications. Little did I know what I had just sparked!
Over the next week those tagged pictures started showing up in the news feeds of just about everyone who is a mutual friend of mine and the youth pastor’s. People started hitting the ‘like’ button. People started commenting on how much my daughter looks like me. The more people interacted with the photos, the more Facebook showed them to other friends. People at church stopped me to let me know they’d seen the photos. My 15-minutes of fame had stretched out to an hour and I was ready for it to be over.
Just as I was thinking about taking the photos down, someone jokingly asked for details about my wild teenage years. It was then that I realized just how much I’ve changed over the years — I don’t want to talk about my past, I want to share my future!
I tried so hard to be a rebellious teenager. I did things I knew were wrong, just to be accepted by my friends — thankfully, I also said ‘no’ to many things (because I knew they were wrong). While I know my past has shaped who I am, I also know I would be in a much different place in my life if it were not for the saving grace of Jesus Christ.
Thanks to God’s forgiveness and mercy, I am living proof that people can change. I grew up in what society would call a broken home. Alcoholism, mental illness, and divorce run in my family. When I developed a relationship with Jesus, He helped me to turn my back on all of that: drinking, smoking, foul language, gossip, etc. He healed my hard heart and gave me His heart, so that I now put others’ needs before my own.
I’m thankful that I no longer have a dark cloud hanging over me. I no longer seek out depressing songs or scary movies. Knowing that I can talk to God whenever I want, that I can read His Word whenever I want, and that I am loved with an everlasting love has brightened my life immeasurably. I have hope where I once had nothing. Instead of looking out for myself, I now try to help others in some way every day.
I’m not perfect. On good days, my old life/ways seem so foreign to me. Most of the time I have to keep myself in check so I don’t slip back into those ways. I often slip in my mind and thoughts, though. No, I am far from perfect. But, as long as I keep my focus on Jesus and not on the ways of the world, I do okay.
Do you share my joy? Do you know my friend, Jesus? Would you like to? Maybe you have a past similar to mine (I decided to include the photos that sparked this, below). Be encouraged, my friend — there is a better life waiting for each of us.