Our Story and Theirs
A few years ago my husband and I were invited to dinner at the home of a sweet family in our church. We didn’t know them very well at the time, but what we did know about them we loved. They were clearly devoted to the Lord and loved one another dearly. They had several precious little kiddos they were intentionally pointing to Jesus. As we chatted over Italian food, they asked us about our story. We told them about our growing-up years as missionary kids in Christian homes, about how God had brought us together in a unique and beautiful way.
Then, we asked them. What was their story? They exchanged glances, chuckling uncomfortably. “Well,” the wife said, “our story is a bit messier than yours.” As they told us their own life stories, we could tell there was a level of shame still attached to it. Even though the Lord had done incredible, redemptive work in their lives, they felt a bit awkward sharing with two people whose pasts were filled with so much less baggage. But we didn’t leave judging them—we left in awe of God’s amazing grace and goodness.
Shame for the Past
I’ve talked with many other women since that day who have hesitated to share their stories for the same reasons. I’m sure they wonder if they’ll be looked down on or judged for sharing pasts filled with regrets, mistakes, brokenness, and shame. But the reality is, the beauty of God’s redemption is highlighted most brilliantly when contrasted with the sin we’ve been saved from. As Romans 8:1 says, “There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.”
Even for those of us whose pasts may not be as “messy,” who grew up in godly homes, were saved at a young age, and never had a season of rebellion, the verse rings just as true. “For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God” (Romans 3:23). Even one sin is enough to separate us from God for all of eternity. Jesus’ grace covers the sins that are committed on the outside, and the ones that are easier to cover up—pride, lust, coveting, selfishness, bitterness. He died to free us from them all. No matter how good we look on the outside, we are all in desperate need of a Savior. And what a Savior we have!
Don't Stay Quiet
But, we have an enemy who is determined to keep us silent. He wants to hold shame over our heads, whispering lies into our ears to keep us from opening our mouths to share about God’s goodness and faithfulness. The lies come in lots of forms: “You have a reputation to keep. They won’t want to be your friend anymore. Who are you to talk? Remember how you spoke to your kids today? You have so many areas that keep you unqualified.”
Whatever it is, it’s all for the purpose of keeping the truth and power of the Gospel from being proclaimed. Others who are still trapped in darkness need to hear about the miraculous power of the Gospel to bring us from death to life. Let’s not allow the enemy of our souls to taunt and threaten; he has no say. Let’s listen to Jesus and what He has to say because His opinion is the one that matters.
When these voices speak, we can learn from Paul's response. “The saying is trustworthy and deserving of full acceptance, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners, of whom I am the foremost. But I received mercy for this reason, that in me, as the foremost, Jesus Christ might display his perfect patience as an example to those who were to believe in him for eternal life” (1 Timothy 1:15).
A Redemption Story
God wants to make each one of us into a living, breathing testimony of His incredible, perfect, underserved love and transforming power. When we remember that our identity is now in Him, we are able to share our stories without shame. We know that Jesus has nailed that shame to the cross where it was defeated. In Christ, we are raised to new life and we can proclaim from the rooftops the power of our God to free us from even the foulest of sins. Jesus gave His very life to free us from sin! Our perfect, holy, just, righteous God chose to come to this earth and die the death we deserved. This is the incredible story of the Gospel, and we are invited to share in this reality.
Here are a few encouragements in regards to this area, particularly if you are still living under shame.
Confess Your Sin
1 John 1:9 says, “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” `
If you have unconfessed past sin—or current sin—and you are living under its weight, bring that sin into the light. When it’s confessed, it begins to lose its power. Only when it is kept in the dark can it continue to be used by the enemy to cause harm, shame, and stunt our growth in the Lord.
“But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus his Son cleanses us from all sin.” (1 John 1:7)
I encourage you to go to a godly older woman (or older in the faith) and take this step toward living in the full freedom Christ has purchased for us. And then, continue to allow those people to walk with you through the process of overcoming and restoration and increased strength in God.
Remember the Purpose
We need to remember why we share our pasts: to glorify God and point to Him. This means it needs to be done at the right time and in the right place. When we’re wondering whether we should share with someone, we need to ask ourselves, “Will sharing about my past sin with this person right now be helpful in pointing us to Christ?” God will give us wisdom for when to share and how much to share as we seek Him and allow Him to lead those conversations in His time and His way.
If you’re not sure what the correct context for sharing might be, ask someone you know will give you wise counsel—this might be someone who knows you well and has walked with you through overcoming those sins. This could be your spouse or another woman.
Check Your Heart
For those of us whose pasts may look a lot cleaner on the outside, we need to guard against a spirit of pride or a judgmental attitude when we know about someone’s past. We could very easily call it a pharisaical spirit. It can be so easy for us to look at the things we haven’t done and subconsciously justify looking down on those who have done those things. But this is where we need to remember that every single person is just as much in need of God’s grace as the next. There is nothing we can do that wins us extra favor in God’s eyes—it’s a free gift that cannot be earned (Ephesians 2:8–9).
We need to ask the Lord to open our eyes to the sin He has saved us from. Ask Him to convict us on ever-deepening levels of the ways He wants to transform us more into His image and to help us view others through the lens of grace.
In telling our stories of our past, we don’t glorify the sin: we glorify the Savior who saved us from that sin. We’ve been set free to proclaim the greatness of our God to a lost and dying world. Let’s live today in the reality of our salvation, unashamedly proclaiming with our lips and lives, “How great is our God!”
Your Friend, Heather
Heather Cofer is a wife and mother with a passion for encouraging others to love Jesus with all their hearts. This comes through writing, leading worship, and being actively involved in life-on-life discipleship alongside her husband, Judah. Judah is one of the pastors at their church. She is a regular contributor to the ministry of Set Apart Girl, and you can follow along on Heather’s journey through her Instagram or Facebook.