Are the Ghosts of Your Past Still Living With You?
(Listen to the audio version of this article here.)
The small, blue house trimmed in bright white sits at the end of a dead-end street. Built in the late 1940s, it was taken down to the studs and thoughtfully reimagined.
White tree roses line the walkway and embrace the foundation. Raised garden beds are carefully placed throughout the backyard, angled just right to catch the morning and mid-day sun. Large ceramic bowls, filled with water, and wooden feeders provide refuge for the local birds and a source of exasperation for the resident squirrels.
Have You Found Freedom from Your Past, or Do You Live With It?
A heart-shaped wreath invites you through the front door. Artwork and handmade quilts grace the walls. Books are meticulously stacked upon open shelves and in neat piles on tabletops. Candles—tall and thin, fat and stumpy—occupy space on the fireplace mantle and hearth. Their scents mingle with cinnamon tea and the aroma of fresh-baked bread. Treasures, collected from out-of-the-way places, rest in handmade vessels, orchids, and herbs fill the windowsills.
This little sanctuary is more than a roof, walls, and floor. It represents a lifetime of hard work and freedom gained over the monsters that haunt us; it represents what each of us desperately wants: the sacred peace we call home.
Yet, there is a restlessness for its occupants.
It can be hard to be still when life has called us to move, sometimes run, to survive. We look over our shoulders, and out the window, listening for the inevitable sounds that validate our assumptions (“This can’t be home, there must be more, I don’t deserve…”)
The angst ignites a drive to search, find something different, something better, something that transports us from apprehension to assurance. So, we box up our life, packing it safely in bubble wrap and packing peanuts, and make our way to what we hope will be a true safe haven. Once we’ve arrived, we take our time unpacking.
Life is safer packed and warehoused, a life placed on hold.
Unwanted Guests In My Sanctuary
Yet there is one factor we often fail to consider, we keep taking ourselves, our broken, angry, fearful selves to the next place. And regardless of how beautiful the structure is, it will never be enough to counterbalance the burdens we haul around.
I have lived in beautiful homes. With each, I filled them with exactly the things I had repeatedly tried to leave behind.
I moved in guilt—the sins of my past, the times I have disappointed others, the frustration of not being able to solve my family, friends, the world’s problems—the evidence that I am not enough.
I carried in fear and scattered it through each room. What happens if the truth of my life is unveiled, the mask falls off, or I forget how to hide the ugliness nesting in my soul?
Shame pushed past me as I opened the door. It stood boldly in the living room, right hand firmly planted on right hip, and reminded me of guilt’s accusations. Shame bullied me to embrace the distortions and offered me a well-worn jacket. The sleeves were sewn together to bind my mind and heart in guilt’s lies.
I’ve packed and unpacked my longings, aimlessly roaming in hopes the new would cover my indiscretions. However, I remain the constant, not my stuff, the circumstances, or my past—just me.
One Gift I Had Forgotten In Storage
Recently, while packing for the next move, I found a small, wooden box. It had been stored in the garage, tucked under fear’s indictments and covered by thick blankets of shame. Truth be told, I had forgotten it was there.
The box was thoughtfully carved: a man’s face graced the lid, tears flowing over marred cheekbones. Each tear flowed over the box’s edges, droplets of pure gold, all culminating in a radiant pool.
Jesus’ presence embodied by a box hidden deeply in my heart.
As I opened the lid, scarlet paper covered the contents. I carefully pulled back each sheet and found a small wooden cross. The words, FORGIVENESS embellished the surface. Forgiveness covered by Jesus’ sacrificial tears, wrapped in the scarlet blood of His cross.
I held the cross close to my chest, and whispered, “Forgiven, I am forgiven.”
God’s forgiveness does not only offer freedom from the things we’ve attempted to store away. It provides an interior designer to help us arrange our lives, minds, hearts and souls in new ways—reimagining the foundations of our lives in the image of our Savior.
Forgiveness of self, those that have inflicted pain, and those that will disappoint brings true newness. Accepting God’s forgiveness brings about transformation. We can enter His presence, sit awhile, and exhale. We can be confident because we are finally home.
Finding Freedom in God’s Forgiveness
Permanently installed outside the front gate of the little, blue house, stands a handcrafted library box. A new tree graces the freshly tilled lawn. Sod covers what used to be an expanse of mulch and weeds. Perhaps, all signs the occupants are ready to call this small jewel home.
When forgiveness moves in, guilt, fear, and shame are forced out.
Move home daughter. Come close to your Father. Remember, you are forgiven … You are free.
If you’re struggling to shed guilt and shame, we encourage you to listen to this podcast episode: When You Want to Break Free of Your Past – 130