Skeletons in the closet

20 Mar

I will never forget the day I sat in Pastor Chris’s office several years ago.  It was one of those “aha” moments in my life, kind like the one that brought me to that office. That past Sunday I sat among hundreds of other people in the Edge at North Coast Church. I was lost and empty, searching for something to fill the holes in my life. I was ashamed of the past I brought in with me, but to prideful to admit who I really was… and what I had become. So I sat there, numb to the possibility of hope and finding freedom from my past.

Here is why I love God!

I opened the weekly bulletin and pulled out the notes sheet. On the top of the sheet read, “Skeletons In The Closet,” and directly below that, “FACING THE TRUTH ABOUT ME.” I think I actually said to God under my breath, “REALLY??? in the most sarcastic tone possible and I am pretty sure he responded in the same sarcastic tone, “YES, REALLY.”

Pastor Chris started with a story about Thomas Edison. In December of 1914, after ten years of trying to invent a battery of some sort, spontaneous combustion broke out in his film room. Within minutes everything he had worked for was up in flames. Firefighters from 8 surrounding areas came and tried to put the fire out, but the flames were so hot and water pressure so low, everything was destroyed. Edison was 67 years old. In that moment he saw everything vanish. The Inventors 24-year-old son Charles, was searching for his father and when he finally found him, he saw him sitting calmly watching the fire. He said his heart ached to see his dad watching all his work and dreams go up in smoke. When Edison saw his son he yelled, “Charles where is your mother?” Charles didn’t know where she was and his father said, “Find her and bring her here. She is never going to see a fire like this again as long as she lives.” The next morning Edison and his family were sifting through the ruin and Thomas Edison said something that made me sit up in my chair, “There is great value in this disaster. All of our mistakes are burned up. We can finally start a new.” And three weeks after the fire Edison managed to deliver the first phonograph.

I knew sitting there I was a disaster but I was to lost to see the value in it. I wondered how many times I stood outside the ashes of my own ruin wanting to be forgiven never realizing I already was. What I needed was to be free. The problem is that in order to be free from my past, I would have to go back to it. Back to the events I hoped no one would ever find out about. It’s funny because I never realized the Bible is full of “pasts” and “trash”about it’s hero’s. Hearing Pastor Chris name a few gave me hope. For example, Adam & Eve; they disobeyed the one rule God gave them, hid their nakedness, lied & chose blame over accountability. Cane and Able; children of Adam & Eve, brothers; and one who committed the first murder in history. Moses; an amazing man of God who had severe anger issues. Rahab; a prostitute who hid the Israeli spies because she believed they were sent by God. King David; a great man who was also full of pride; suffered with an addiction to pornography, committed adultery, murder and had multiple wives. Jonah; a very selfish man, to the point of letting an entire nation die because of it. Samson; suffered with a sexual addiction. Sara; tells her husband to sleep with another woman to conceive a child. Abraham: sleeps with the other woman and lies to hide it. Gideon; led an entire nation into idol worship. Jacob; extorted his birth right from his brother. Judah; comes from the blood line of Christ, yet gets his daughter in law pregnant and uses the excuse that he thought she was a prostitute. Solomon; known as one the wisest men who ever lived yet had 700 wives and 300 concubines. Peter; a man who walked with Jesus, was a disciple and friend, yet denied him 3 times. Thomas; doubted Jesus rose from the dead after being hand-picked by Jesus and followed him for 3 years. Paul & Barnabas; the greatest New Testament missionary duo, got into a fight and were no longer able to work together because of their pride. From the beginning of the Bible to the end, it is book full of mistakes & failures. It is about a God who says, let’s go back to where it blew up; walk among the ashes, start over and print it so others can see the type of God I am.

The more I heard the words come from Pastor Chris, the more I began to see that not dealing with my past was robbing me of my future. A future that could be full of hope, peace, forgiveness, acceptance and freedom, but I had to face the truth first. I had to stop running. In all honesty I knew I wasn’t running from lies, but from the truth. I had to go back to the ashes and accept it for what it was. The beauty of this is that I didn’t have to thank God for what happened but thank him that in spite of it I am loved, valued and have purpose. Until I was able to do this my past owned me, I didn’t own it. Hearing these words was like giving someone who was dying of thirst, water. I knew God had forgiven me but I couldn’t forgive myself. I had no idea what it was to be free, because being free from the past means we accept grace over guilt and live with the closet door open.

We all have skeleton’s in our closet but we have a choice; we can allow those skeletons to be satan’s greatest weapon or Gods most powerful tool. We can hide our past or we can lead with it. I walked into that building desperate, broken and alone. I was trying to outrun myself. I had been praying that, like Thomas Edison, a great fire would happen in my life and all my mistakes and failures would go up in flames.

When I met with Pastor Chris that day, I was ready to go back to the past I had so desperately been running from. I didn’t want to just be forgiven I wanted to be free. In that meeting he said something to me that I have never forgotten; Failure is an event, never a person. For years I walked around with the word “failure” tattooed across my forehead. A title I had given myself. When I began to see that I, as a person, was not a failure but the events in my life were, I saw myself in a new light. He told me that I didn’t have to stay where I was. I could rise above the things I’ve done and things done to me, and I could use that to lead. Just like the Samaritan woman in John chapter 4, who met Jesus at the well. When Jesus asked her to go get her husband and come back, she told him she had no husband. Jesus said, “you are right, you have had 5 husbands and the man you have now is not your husband.” She told Jesus he must be prophet, and she knew the Messiah was coming and when he did he would explain everything to them. I love his response to her, “I, the one speaking to you—I am he.” The story goes on to say (39) Many of the Samaritans from that town believed in him because of the woman’s testimony, “He told me everything I ever did.” (40) So when the Samaritans came to him, they urged him to stay with them, and he stayed two days. (41) And because of his words many more became believers. (42) They said to the woman, “We no longer believe just because of what you said; now we have heard for ourselves, and we know that this man really is the Savior of the world.”

God uses those things in our past we are most ashamed of to lead others to him. Like this woman, Jesus had to go there! He had to go to the 5 and the 1. He had to tell her everything she had ever done and in that she became free! I knew that is what I had to do. I had to go to the 5 & the 1’s in my life. I had to face it, accept it and choose grace; thankfully I did.

Whenever we have a God “HAD TO GO THERE” time in our life we need to remember that the closet is simply being opened, and the skeletons are being set free, and we can now use our past to lead.

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