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Thursday, April 18, 2013

New Wine Skins and Straight Paths

        I went to Walmart today to buy a few things and ended up getting more than I bargained for. I pulled into the parking space and sat in the car for a few minutes, sharing my yummy chocolate-peanut butter Odwalla bar (if you've never tried, I highly recommend!) with the boys before we went into the store. All of a sudden, for no particular reason at all, I glanced up. There in my rear view mirror was the face of a ghost from my past.....someone I suffered greatly for in my addiction. Of course I will not mention names but this person had used, abused, and taken great advantage of the state I was in at that period of my life. There, in my rear view only 20 feet from where I sat, was the embodiment and epitome of all the pain and guilt and shame that was the worst part of my addiction. I have to admit I have wondered before how it would feel to see this person and rub my blessed, beautiful life right in their face....but I suppose that wouldn't be very Christ-like, huh? Well, the Lord gives and the Lord takes away and, here, He was giving me something and taking something away. He was giving me the chance to finally show off the new me but, at the same time, He was taking away the desire to do so.
        I think I was in a state of shock for a little while because I could not hold back tears and I had no idea why they were coming. Maybe it was memories. Maybe it was awake nightmares. I think it was really the fact that for a few minutes, I actually felt like that girl again. I felt as though I had been transported back years ago when I was so desperate for love and affection that I allowed myself to become enslaved - not only by drugs but by someone who was even sicker in the heart than I was. I believe it was also the fear that simply this person's presence was enough to wipe away the new person Christ had given birth to in me. That if I had gone in the store and ran into this person, my beautiful, blessed life as a mother, wife, and (most of all) daughter would vanish away.
        After a little while I began to hear the Lord gently reminding me, though. Reminding me that He was the One who brought me from my bondage. He was the One who stayed with me, cried with me, hurt with me, carried me all the way through even the darkest of times. And that, if He was strong enough to break those chains and lift me up to where I am today, He is surely strong enough to hold me. "My Father, who has given them to me, is greater than all; And no one is able to snatch them out of the Father's hand." (John 10:29) He also reminded me that I am not that girl anymore. "Therefore, if anyone is in Christ he is a new creature; the old things passed away; behold, new things have come." (2 Corinthians 5:17) It is not simply my words that are new or my clothes that are new. I am new! My heart, soul, and mind are new and the old have passed away. To the rest of the world I may look the same, but Christ knows differently.
            I think of the parables Jesus used about the new patch and the new wine skins. The Lord could have given me this new life and even this new way of behaving, but if He didn't make me a new creature, I would have surely gone back to my old ways and ruined the new life He had given me. I cannot describe the comfort in knowing these things. God is always good!
         I am still amazed at the Lord's perfect timing, although I should be used to it by now. (I don't really think He wants us to ever "get used to" Him, though!) If I had not parked in that space and sat there for a minute to finish my snack with the boys..... If this person had not parked where they had parked and walked right up the same isle I was parked in.... If I had not looked up at the exact moment this person was walking behind my car to be seen in my rear view.... If all these things had not happened exactly as they had, I would have undoubtedly gone into the store and had to face a very painful part of my past.
         I don't believe it is the Lord's intention or desire for us to never have to face (and be reminded of) our mistakes in life, but I do believe He knew I would not handle seeing this person well. I believe He was protecting me - in more ways than one. Yes, it would have hurt me tremendously to see someone who deliberately tried to keep me chained to my addiction. But who knows what hateful and spiteful words would have come out of my mouth? Who knows what vengeful and prideful thoughts would have formed in my heart? I believe the Lord was doing what He could to keep me from sinning against Him and, thus, moving myself away from Him rather than toward Him. How loving and merciful is our God!

 "I will lead the blind by a way they do not know, in paths they do not know I will guide them. I will make darkness into light before them, and rugged places into plains. These are the things I will do, and I will not leave them undone." (Isaiah 42:16)

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