We all go through lifestyle changes. We all make decisions in our lives that perhaps we would've never thought of making, say five, ten years ago, but have decided to make them now for our betterment. We change for the better and it is a part of growth.
And when we make those drastic changes we feel good, our bodies feel good. We trust we have chosen correctly for ourselves. We are content, so much so, we begin to tell our friends and loved ones about our change and how they too can achieve this new lifestyle. We are different and we vow not to go back to our old selves. We are committed to our new selves.
But then something happens... someone decides to throw us a curveball, and not just any old curveball. We get thrown at us a curveball of our past; a pitch that comes out of nowhere and twists and turns to show us who we used to be, the things we used to do. Most times we don't see it coming until it's almost too late. We have seen what it brings; a reminder of where we were, of how we use to be, and we get distracted.
I'll use myself as an example.
I used to be a smoker. I wasn't a chain smoker, but there were times in my life where I smoked so much I landed in the hospital. I knew the damage it was doing to me. My lungs burned, my asthma worsened, my skin took on an unhealthy hue, my breath, clothes, and fingertips stunk. I knew it was a bad habit, but knowing the damage I was doing didn't stop me. I kept on smoking and making excuses like, "I'm stressed and smoking calms me, " or "I only smoke when I drink." It was bad for me, hurtful to my body, and to be honest with you, I really didn't know how or even wanted to stop.
When I met J, I hid my smoking from him. From what I gathered as I was getting to know him, he didn't like girls who smoked. I liked him enough to keep it from him, but not enough to quit. By the time he realized I was a smoker I was in love with him. He asked me to stop and I did. Just like that. I didn't stop because of the health issues, of the smell, the financial burden even. I stopped because someone I loved and someone who loved me asked me to and I didn't want to be separated from him. So I gave up smoking so that I can be happy with him instead. That was more than ten years ago and I slowly gave it up. Every now and then I'd find a cigarette back in my hands but I knew I had changed. I no longer felt I had the option to go backwards and lose what I gained when I let go of the smoking habit. It wasn't until later that I saw the benefits of quitting to my body, my wallet, but I can honestly say that if it wasn't for J telling me to quit, I probably would have kept on smoking. Perhaps quitting for J wasn't the best reason in many people's eyes, but it led me to change my lifestyle. Now when I see people I love smoking I ask them to quit, hoping to have a similar effect on them as J had on me. But, in doing so, sometimes, I get the curveball of my past smoking lifestyle. When I see it coming it reminds me of the damage done.
Jesus Christ has had the same effect on me. Smoking is bad but perhaps not my worst of sins and my past is riddled with them. My lifestyle before Christ was so very different. I was not thinking about the damage I was doing to my soul. My former ways weren't just breaking God's heart, but my very own. Unfortunately, that didn't make me stop. I didn't know Jesus loved me. I didn't know Jesus, I mean, really know Him, and so I didn't love Him either. But the minute I bumped into Jesus on my life's road, He immediately showed me His wounds, His scars. He showed me His love. I was hurting myself and in turn hurting Him. He asked me to stop. I promised I would try.
And I decided to change my lifestyle for Him. I love Jesus. I don't want to be separated from Him. If I go back to my former ways, if I stick to them and decide to dismiss my changes, I will be unhappy, I will feel empty, defeated, ashamed. Jesus will always love me, but if I go back, I'm choosing to walk away from Him. And I love Jesus. So I'm doing my best to change my lifestyle. I'm still making progress but I have definitely changed for my better.
But, of course, every now and then, I get thrown that curveball. It comes down the plate, tricking me into believing that my past is gonna strike me out. All I've worked so much for to get here won't mean a thing because this curveball of the past is about to try and transport me back to the old ways. It has the power to make me believe that I have never changed.
I get very distracted.
Those old buddies of mine, Shame and Regret come along for the ride. There were days when they would grab me, but not without a struggle. Nowadays, I let them take me sometimes. See, I do have regrets, and there are times when I do feel shame. I used to fight these feelings. I used to say I have no regrets, I'm not ashamed of my past. But I am, and it's a good thing. Shame and Regret serve a purpose in my life now. They are reminders of where I don't want to be again. If these two didn't come around, if I walked through life still stating my lack of shame and regret, I guarantee you that I will repeat my past doings. If I don't feel shame and regret I give myself license to not be held accountable for my sins, past, present and future, and I will keep on hurting the person I love most, Jesus, and, in turn hurting myself.
Shame and Regret somehow keep me focused on where I am going and how far I've come.
When someone decides to throw you a curveball of the past, try and knock you out of play and tell you that you are still the same old person, let it past you. It is impossible for us to travel back in time. The past is the past but you can glance back when you want and remind yourself of where you've been. A couple of curveballs may have to pass you by to recognize what they really are and what purpose they serve. Some may even strike you out, but the game isn't over. Study them, look at them, feel the speed as they whizz by. Once you begin to realize that the past is a tool now, not to bring you back, or to knock you down, but to remind you of how far you have come, meet that pitch, make contact with your bat and knock that curveball of the past out of the park. You will see it again, but chances are you will know how to use it for good next time around.
Today I choose Jesus. Tomorrow I pray I keep choosing Jesus. He knows my past. He loves me enough to ask me to change, to not be afraid, to trust in Him. He's my coach, waving me home, telling me I can do it. I may trip and I may fall, but His encouragement keeps me rounding the bases and all I want is to get home to heaven and score one for the winning team. Keep those curveballs coming!