Haunted by the Past
And when he had come to Jerusalem, he attempted to join the disciples. And they were all afraid of him, for they did not believe that he was a disciple. Acts 9:26
Occasionally, someone who has only known me over the last couple of years will tell me they have a hard time believing that I once abused drugs. It’s a nice sentiment and I’m glad they find it hard to believe, but it’s only because they weren’t there for the self-destruction. They only see the recovery.
I’m occasionally reminded of my past though. Not long ago, while visiting a friend in the hospital where I used to work, I passed by a specific spot that I’d not been since that horrible September day, six years ago, when life fell apart. In being there, I was suddenly taken back in time as I reexperienced the hopelessness of losing my job and perhaps my family and career. Maybe it’s the devil, or maybe it’s my overactive sense of shame, but I again hear the accusation. Who do you think you are? You’re nothing. Look at all the horrible things you’ve done.
I wonder if the apostle Paul ever felt like that. Before he was Paul, he was Saul, the notorious terrorizer of Christians. He spent so much time persecuting Christ’s followers that when he did come to faith and began spreading the gospel, some had a hard time believing him. Who does he think he is? He isn’t fooling anyone. He’s not one of us. Saul had to know that others doubted him. So, how did he respond?
We’re not told whether Saul was bothered by this or not, but I believe he was remorseful. It’s hard to truly repent if you don’t feel bad about the thing you’re repenting from. However, Saul didn’t let those voices dissuade him or slow him down. So he went in and out among them at Jerusalem, preaching boldly in the name of the Lord (Acts 9:28).
When we find ourselves haunted by our past, we would do well to follow Paul’s example, not allowing it to turn us from our path of repentance. We don’t live to silence our critics. We live for Christ. If we relapse into the old life though, we give in to those doubting voices. It’s only in following the new path daily, that we outlive our past, building a new blessed life in Christ.