March 9, 2010

To Live is Christ — letting Him shape my story

Yesterday I discovered that my in-laws have been living with a misconception for more than sixty years. My father-in-law was told certain things about his parents that were not true. The Department of Vital Statistics, census records, death and marriage records all show several errors in so-called family history. While I don’t know why Dad didn’t know the truth, I do know how the misconception adversely affected his life.

Part of me was glad to find these things. Another part of me grieves at the damage caused by innuendo and perhaps lies. I’ve not a huge interest in genealogy (sort of coaxed into it by family) yet have found that the stories we believe about ourselves affect how we live.

God knows that too. The Bible is filled with exhortations to His people about remembering their history. When they kept their past in mind, it would help them follow Him in the present.

Jesus stated the principle more specifically. He said that His story and His very words could shape our lives. What He says is vital and basic to the way we think of ourselves and to how we behave. 

These words I speak to you are not incidental additions to your life, homeowner improvements to your standard of living. They are foundational words, words to build a life on. If you work these words into your life, you are like a smart carpenter who built his house on solid rock. Rain poured down, the river flooded, a tornado hit—but nothing moved that house. It was fixed to the rock. (Matthew 7:24–25, The Message)
But we need to pay attention. I’ve met people who say what’s past is past, that it doesn’t matter what their parents did or how their family life happened. Yet they show in their lives the effects of these things they insist do not matter.

For instance, as a child, one woman was told constantly that she was a good girl and that she was good enough. This has become so ingrained in her life that she takes no responsibility for anything. Her problems are all the fault of others, because after all, she is a good girl.

Even though our past affects today, our past is not a handy scapegoat. No one can blame their current life and choices on their heritage or their parents. We are responsible before God for our own lives, for our own sins and shortcomings. As Jesus said, I need to listen to Him and make His words part of my life. When I do, the storms of life will hit, but they cannot destroy me.

One such storm could be an event or an accusation that accuses me of being a sinful person. If my life were built on the foundation of “you are a good girl” then I would deny all sin and miss out on being forgiven and cleansed.

Instead, with Jesus’ Word as my foundation, I have to agree. I am a sinful person. That might not sound like a solid basis to remain fixed and firm, but it is — because it is the truth. If I tried to cover up that reality, the winds of life would eventually blow my cover and I could not stand with only that lie to hold me up.

To live is Christ means letting Him tell me who I am, letting Him shape my story. Yes, the past is there and for some of us, it may not be pretty, but when Jesus comes into the picture, everything begins to change. As long as I am hearing Him and doing what He says, whatever falls out of the family tree will not have an eternal impact. Instead, the life of Christ is my destiny and obedience to that Life reveals who I am.

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