People were tearing down Savannah, Georgia. The city was tired of its past and of its old buildings so in the name of progress and revitalization, buildings and houses were being demolished to make way for new, modern, and sleek.
But then, in the mid 1950s, some women of Savannah stepped up. They realized that the city was destroying their history and they wanted to preserve it. These feisty ladies formed the Historic Savannah Foundation and set about buying and preserving the city. Thanks to their smart thinking, people can now travel to Savannah and experience the beauty of buildings built in the 1800s and the history and culture of a time past. The history of that city, both good and bad, can’t be adaquately described in words. And to think that a lot of it would be gone if a group of ladies didn’t have the thought that maybe all this old stuff was still worth something is scary.
I think our lives are a lot like that.
We often get caught up in the idea that all the bad stuff in our pasts, all the junk that we would rather not have needs to be brushed aside and forgot about. Let’s tear down and rebuild! we say. Let’s make new and forget the past! but I think we might be missing the point.
Now I’m all for forgetting about most of my late teens and early twenties. If there was a bad decision to be made, I was first to volunteer. I hurt people, myself, and have lasting consequences for things I thoughtlessly did long ago. (Confession: I still do those things, I just do them a little less frequently now.) But pretending those things never happened or acting like the way I am now is the way I have always been takes away some of God’s glory.
Because where I’m at right now, while still a million miles off, is a whole lot better than I used to be. And the only way I could ever recover from my destructive past is through the grace of God. He shined me up in ways I didn’t even know were possible. He restored me with love and patience and more patience. If I choose to ignore that story–ignore that history–and just come across as shiny and new, the redemption gets lost.
I think God wants us to share our stories–all the bits–because it’s how he moves people. Who doesn’t love a good before-and-after story? I love to see weight loss success stories on Instagram; I can sit for hours and watch home remodeling shows to see how much magic can be worked; I love to see people get a dramatic haircut and how much it changes their whole being. I just love a transformation.
So does God.
Because when a true transformation happens, you know it was nothing you did on your own, but God working through you. And you need to be running around telling everyone about it! You need to be David shouting about all that God has done in your life.
Sing to the Lord, all the earth;
proclaim his salvation day after day.
Declare his glory among the nations,
his marvelous deeds among all peoples.
For great is the Lord and most worthy of praise;
he is to be feared above all gods.
-1 Chronicles 16: 23-25
So tearing down and pretending things didn’t exist—I think that we need to share those things. Maybe not to every single person we meet, maybe not in a Facebook post to one thousand of your best friends, and maybe not to every single co-worker, but there is a time and a place where you’re going to need to share that story. Share it for God’s glory, share it so that others can be pointed to him and his majesty. Don’t tear down your past. Don’t forget that even the nasty parts can be used to show others his grace and mercy. Some of the greatest stories in the Bible started out with people that were completely unworthy and ungodly–you just never know how God can use you for his purpose. But what I do know is that we serve a creative God that will surprise us.
Let’s stop tearing down and burying our stories. Share them with your loved ones, whisper them to your friends at night over wine and chocolate, write them for your children. Don’t let shame or regret steal God’s glory.