I hated being late for school!
That feeling of being the party crasher, all eyes on you as you awkwardly find an empty chair. Perceiving the mockery, the judgment, whilst avoiding eye contact, I'd get my head down as fast as I could. My mum would say, "Once you're in there you'll be fine, you have to break the ice. Just get in there and you'll soon forget about it."
But I didn't.
For the rest of the day there was always that lingering feeling of 'lateness', being out of sync, like watching a film clip where the lips are moving but the words are delayed. I realised later it wasn't solely being late which made me feel out of sorts, it was feeling like I didn't belong there at all.
Coming to know Christ in my late 20's I'd often look back and be overcome by despair and regret, believing I'd come to the lessons of life too late. I would reflect on the broken seasons in my life where I'd not known any better, and was now walking in the fruit of those ill-sown years; a marriage that required more sacrifice than I had been able to give, a child I hadn't been able to love unconditionally, friendships, jobs, with burnt bridges left along the way. Broken people leave a broken trail, I had a 27 year trail.
Is there too much water under the bridge, is there anything left to salvage?
There were also occasions I didn't feel I could come to God at all, a deep sense of not belonging, a lack of understanding of who I was before Him because of Jesus and looking only to my sinfulness.
Hebrews says, "Let us then with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need." You see friends, our Father's heart is to help, to show us mercy, He wants us to come confidently as a child would to a parent when trouble comes. But imperfect relationships with our own parents can shape the way we respond to God, if we've been met with anger, ridicule, shouting, belittling, it can set a pattern in our hearts which needs to be undone.
His throne however is a place of welcoming, of grace, not scolding, condemnation, anger or 'I told you so'. He doesn't dish out our 'just desserts', the Bible actually says 'He does not repay us according to our sins' Psalm 103:10, in fact go read that whole Psalm and see the posture of our Father towards us!
It can be hard to enter that room late, to believe that you have a right to be there and that help awaits.
How can I undo the damage?
We know we can't turn back the clock? A better question would be, how do I do the next right thing to make a better future?
Regret is only helpful if it serves to move us towards better choices moving forward.
God can do the work of redeeming if we'll commit our ways moving forward with Him, but it's impossible to see where we're going if we're always looking back.
Friend, it's never too late for a fresh start, NEVER! God's mercies are new every day, He's not waiting to see us fall, He's waiting for us to turn to Him with sincere hearts so He can show us His faithfulness. We don't have to wait to get things straightened out before we come to Him for help, that's like a toddler trying to clean away a spilled mess with bare hands.
Many of us have broken, scattered and fractured pasts, or maybe you're living today in a place of heartache and fragments?
"If your life is broken when given to Jesus, it may be because the pieces will feed a multitude."
- Elizabeth Elliot, II Corinthians 1:6
God wants us to take a step of faith and trust Him to show us how to write the rest of the story differently, to dare to believe we can learn and move forward and that even what has passed before in the shadows can be used for good in the light of His love.
I am no different from you, I am one of those who came to the party late, but I dared to believe in the goodness and greatness of God to take the broken pieces and make something beautiful and useful with them. Won't you join me?