Beyond the Wasted Life

One of the most underestimated sins has to be

waste.

The waste of seconds.  The waste of minutes.  The waste of days.  Whole years globbed together in meaningless demise, rotting away in memory, the value sold for cheap pleasures spent long ago.

As a new believer, I danced in joy into God’s Kingdom.  But before the dance was the funeral.

Over a few hard, painful months, the reality of my life had come in focus.  Not fully–I couldn’t have stood the despair of that.  But I got an inkling of how worthless, worthlessWORTHLESS my life had been.  The shame of really looking was enough to keep my eyes from it for years; but God brought me to a point where I had to look, and at last I took little glimpses at the devastation of a life gone wrong.

.           .          .          .          .

I was a child star.

I don’t know how it came so easy for me, but I could dazzle a room.  I was the jewel of my family, the angel among my friends, the princess at my church.  I was the wisest child, the most honest child, the child with the deepest integrity, the sweetest child they’d ever seen.

How much of this was really how people thought of me, and how much of this was how I thought people thought of me, I don’t know, and it doesn’t matter in so far as what happened to me.

What happened to me was that I believed it.

I began to believe that I was going to do great things.  I could read Scripture beautifully, recite well, and speak about God with a warmth in my voice that brought people to tenderly believe I was going to be something extraordinary in God’s Kingdom.

I wouldn’t say I had plans to become a missionary, but I had plans to overwhelm the Christian world with my beautiful heart.  I was the next greatest person on the face of the earth–and as arrogant as this sounds, and I’ve no doubt it was, to me it was thought in acceptance.  This was who I was going to be.

I gave a testimony at my church when I was 8 and I remember standing at the front afterward with adults congratulating me and speaking so highly of my maturity.  I was going to be a marvel.

The question was, in what?  I wanted to be an Olympic ice skater, or maybe have a show like Oprah, or Martha Stewart, or be a best-selling author, or the next best poet, or I could be a missionary goddess and everyone would be awestruck by my devotion.

I took for granted that these kinds of things would happen in my life.  I took for granted that I was remarkably righteous.

But there was the underbelly.

I thought about evil of one kind or another almost every minute of my free time.  But I kept it to myself.

There was something that bothered me, something that ate at me.  Bad things had happened to me, just like anybody else, and it didn’t seem right.  It didn’t seem right that, if I was to be so beautiful and so loved, I should have a mar in my past.  In my mind, I wondered if I was not really ruined.  If there was really nothing I could do even if all my dreams came true to make my life what I wanted it to be, because my past was not the perfect dream I imagined for it.

I could never rid myself from feelings of guilt.  As a 7-year old, I’d had very strange thoughts, night after night after night.  I was so haunted that I slept in my parent’s room on a cot sometimes, but I couldn’t make the thoughts go away.  Every night was dread.  With dusk, a sense of black doom came over me.  I remember one time doing one of my favorite activities, and when the sky became dark, I was filled with what is still the worst sense of fear of my life.  I could not shake it.

In my thoughts, as I laid down at night, I began to picture myself on a cross.  I kept trying to think of a way to pay for my sin.  I kept saying things like, “God, I’ll pay for my sin.  I’ll pay for my sin on a cross if you just won’t make me go to Hell.”

At age 8, laying down one night, I asked Jesus to save me.  In my mind, I could have explained that Jesus was taking my place on the cross, that He had died for my sin.  In fact, I did explain it, in my church testimony I spoke of earlier.  But in my heart, there was a disconnect.  I was never fully willing to relinquish the control of my sin to God.  I wanted to be able to pay for it myself.

But I had invited God to help me and, what I didn’t realize was, over the next 17 years or so, He would be at work to save my soul.  He would break me of the fairytale-like notion of myself and allow me to utterly ruin my hope that I could ever save myself.

From the time I was about 10 or so.

God would begin proving to me that I wasn’t the dream I saw myself to be.  Rather, I was the nightmare.  All my notions of the inner beauty, self-sacrificial love, benevolent heart, Solomon-wise mind, brilliant way with words, and spiritual 5-star excellence I saw myself as having were torn to pieces.  My life’s delusion was shredded, and I realized that I was nothing but a fatally-flawed, wicked-hearted, Devil-minded sinner.  It was a long fall.

I did not, however, receive all of this insight at once.  It might have pushed me over the edge.  Rather, God gently introduced me to who I really was.  Some of this realization did not come until after I had realized God really loved me–I couldn’t have dealt with it without the love that God, at the perfect time in my life, made so real to me.

As I began to reflect on the aerial view of the past left behind, I should have grieved–and I did, at times.  But far more times, God lifted me up and poured His love out on me so that I could not mourn who I had been.

Giving up my past should have been like putting years of my life in a coffin and then trying to release the casket to be buried.  But instead, God has filled me with a sense of the ongoing present.  I have not mastered this, but as I believe in eternity I will be with my Christ, I know that I will live in the ongoing present forever.

The past that still weighs on me at times weighed inconceivably heavier on Christ at the cross.  He carried the burden of all the wasted years of my life, and when He died, He killed those years.  He atoned for me.

But He went beyond that.  From death, He came back to life.  He reversed the natural order.  As Aslan in C.S. Lewis’ novel talks about a great “reversing”, so Christ reversed the waste of my life when He got up from the grave–the grave that should have been mine.

But I am not buried there, and He is not either.  Instead, I live beyond the wasted life, and you can, too.  If the waste of my life was not too heavy for Christ to bury, yours couldn’t be either!  No matter what past you carry, no matter what you have done, no matter what you regret, Christ has buried the waste of the world in His tomb.  Receive what He’s done and live beyond the wasted life.  Live into the Life eternal.

And this is life eternal, that they might know you the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom you have sent. (Jesus, quoted in John 17:3, AKJV)

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