Through the years, I've experienced quite a bit of pain -- usually because of my own dumb choices. Girls that I listen to or share with have heard me say multiple times that I'm one of those "been there, done that" type of people. Unfortunately, that just means that I've been stupid and have suffered the painful consequences because of it. The thing that has amazed me the most, however, is by just listening to someone's heart burden, how God takes me back to a time when I was in a similar situation. And usually this is not full of pleasant feelings.
But it's almost like I NEED to go back to those feelings, to those thoughts, to those experiences so that I can truly empathize and help direct these girls that I'm dealing with. Because God is Who He is, however, He reminds me that I'm NOT that same person that I was ... that I've been forgiven ... that I've forgiven others ... that He's "lifted me out of the miry clay" ... and that every single life experience that I've had, whether it's been beautiful or extremely ugly, can be used to minister to someone else. And it's my heart's desire to pass those same little reminders along to people I care about.
Other lessons that I've learned:
1) You know you've been healed and have forgiven someone when you can think on an incident without anger. Notice I said "think on" ... not "dwell on". This is a time when it's vitally important to take every thought captive because it's easy to fall back in to the trap of bitterness and anger, whether it pertains to someone else or ourselves.
2) Forgiving myself is one of the hardest things I've ever had to do. Forgiving others can sometimes be really difficult, but forgiving myself is even harder. God reminds me that I don't need to continue"nailing the nails" over and over again. Jesus paid the price ... once for all ... and even though I struggle, I need to forgive myself because He has forgiven me.
3) God is faithful. He DOES create beauty from ashes. He DOES turn ugly situations that I created because of wrong choices into opportunities to witness to and encourage others. Beauty from ashes is a perfect picture of God's grace ...
4) Transparency begets honesty and transparency. When I'm honest and allow people to hear about the person I was, they're more in awe of Who God is ... because He has done (and continues to do) a transforming work in my life. I'm not who I was. I'm not who I'm going to be. God's in the process! It gives hope to girls who are mired in the same situations I was in to see that there IS "light at the end of the tunnel".
5) Growth is almost always painful. I don't know why, it just is. Maybe because if it hurts, we'll remember it a little bit more. But, see #3. God's faithful to comfort.
Loving other people hurts. That's a fact, and I don't know that it will ever change. However, loving other people THROUGH their hurts and struggles is soooooo rewarding, especially when I can help point them to the One Who heals the pain. All of my circumstances, all of my yesterdays, all of my wrong choices -- all pale in significance in the beauty of what God promises to do today ... what He promises to do for me AND for you!!