It’s time

Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God had called me heavenward in Christ Jesus. Php. 3: 13-14

Recently I returned to Auburn University, my alma mater, for the 40th anniversary of a show choir I sang with while I was in school there (think Glee with real talent).

There were members there from group #1 in 1972 all the way up to group #40, this year’s group. I was a member of groups #7-#10, 1978-1982. Do the math and you’ll figure out that it’s been 30 years since I last sang any show tunes or made jazz hands. (At least that’s my story…)

Above and beyond the chance to get back on stage and feel like a kid again (despite all the old geezer grunting and groaning during choreography rehearsals), it was a particularly special weekend for me. The last time I was in Auburn for an event of this type, I was still “lost as a goose”, as my grandfather the preacher used to say. This time, though, I was able to share the story of my salvation with people I knew had been praying for me for a long time.

I was also able to share some examples of my pre-salvation, sin-soaked life to testify to God’s might and power to change me when He saved me. And He certainly did change me. But there is always a fine line I walk when I share some of those things from my past. Explanation…

Have you ever had someone tell a story about something they once did that they would never do now that they’re older/more responsible/born again/etc.? These stories are generally about overindulging in alcohol or other verboten substances, civil disobedience, or sexual immorality, and typically go something like this:

“I was so drunk I had to drive home with
one eye closed to keep from seeing double…”

“We broke into the football stadium after midnight
one night and stole letters off the scoreboard…”

“She told me she might be pregnant – all I could
think of was that my parents were gonna kill me…”

If you’ve been a Christian for most of your life, you may find it hard to believe that people outside of the Jerry Springer show actually have experiences like these in their lives. If you’re like I was, though, you probably see yourself and the people you used to hang around with in those stories.

Sometimes it’s hard to know how to react when we hear these kinds of stories. On the one hand, the fact that they’re relegated to the past certainly points to the grace of God and His ability to forgive.

On the other hand, though, it’s really easy to listen to those stories and let our fallen, Casey Anthony-obsessed, Lindsay Lohan-tsk-tsking selves be secretly titillated by such provocative tales. In my experience, it’s even easier for me to tell those stories, ostensibly to glorify God and praise Him for being “compassionate and gracious” and One who forgives “wickedness, rebellion, and sin” (as He describes Himself in Exodus 34) while secretly, in my still-in-need-of-daily-cleansing heart, relishing the listener’s reaction, for some reason wanting to get a little glory from my past life and prove that I wasn’t the boring, clean-cut guy everyone always thought I was.

I wasn’t that guy – would that I had been. Imagine if I had all those years back to serve the Lord. Maybe my life would have taken an entirely different path. Maybe this blog about sharing the reality of God’s grace would instead be a book – maybe even one of many. I know that God had rather I had not taken the path I took for the first 52 years of my life; but I also know He can take anything – anything – and use it for His honor and glory.

I will tell you that having lived the life I led prior to my salvation gives me a unique perspective on how people think who are just like I was and the barriers they erect that make surrendering one’s life to Christ almost impossible. My past lets me understand what it’s like to be a captive to sin, buying into the lie whispered by the enemy that, “You’re OK – being kind to animals and being a good person is enough.” (After all, as we’re told by respectable sources, there is no hell and, in the end, “Love Wins”.)

One of those people at the reunion with whom I shared that unique perspective I had gained asked me if I was involved in some type of ministry designed to reach out to people going through what I went through. Regretfully my answer was “no” – but I haven’t been able to stop thinking about it since.

For God to truly use me, though, I have to realize that the life I led:

  • No longer defines who I am.
  • Is neither glamorous nor impressive.
  • Almost led me straight to hell.
  • Only has one purpose that I can see – to serve as a reminder of the victory God has given me and to give me reason to praise Him even more.

Maybe one day I’ll be ready to tell my own stories here on “clay” – not to shock or entertain, but to point to the power of the cross and, in effect, to break their hold over me. If you’re a praying person and have room on your prayer request list, I would be grateful if you would pencil me in…

It’s time for me to take hold of the victory God has given me and stop living in the past. It’s time for me to recognize my former life for what it is – powerless… forgiven… forgotten.

It’s time for me to put Philippians 3:13-14 in action:

Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus.

Yeah – it’s definitely time…

5 thoughts on “It’s time

  1. Dear sweet friend, I had written a lengthy reply to your blog today but all of a sudden it just disappeared, my computer shut down and restarted itself and everything I had written was gone.

    I’m not going to try and redo what I had said other than to say because of the wisdom that God has given you and my dear sister in Christ, Dot, my pastor’s wife, is what has turned things around for me. I’ve wasted 3 years of my life ignoring what I knew was right but am now realizing what I need to do to get my life back in God’s will.

    You know Dusty, I think it makes it harder on the ones like us that were raised in church and know better, especially when we have dads and grand dads that were preachers. I know in my situation, people watced my life to see how I would deal with things other kids did’t have to dea with. I must say I failed miserably.

    But, Thank the Lord, through His grace and your wisdom, and the words shared with my old friend and sister in Christ, my pastor’s wife, Dorothy, I have seen the truth and this has helped me realize where my life was heading. Thus, giving me the ability to turn things around and head in the right direction. I’m not there yet but well on my way. Thank you from the bottom of my heart for your words, the wisdom God gave you that I needed at that time. It was tremendously helpful.

    I have prayed for you a long long time and continue to do so. I know you have been praying for me, please continue to do that. “Where two or three agree as touching anything they shall ask, I will do it”. Lets agree to pray for each other everyday for more of God;s Grace and love in our lives from now on. I hope your ability to share your life with others will be a blessing to all who hear it. I know it will, but I will pray to that end.

    I love you in christ my dear friend,


  2. Hey my Brother; I truly know how you feel. If you have read my last post, you can probably understand that it took me quite awhile before I could write about that. Now, I am struggling to carry on. I’ve come to realize that no matter what we do or not do, a battle rages on. God can and will give you the strength to carry your torch further and further, because by doing so, the Light grows brighter and the lost grow closer to recieving God’s perfect gift. You are in my prayers and please do the same for me. Onward, Christian Soldier!

  3. Dusty, it has been 33 years since we sang in the Singers together. When you told me at Auburn that you became a Christian a couple of years ago it made a great impression on me.

    What is most important is that you made me stop & begin to think about the voice of God that has been gently speaking to me.

    Reading this blog post I wondered if you wrote it directed toward me. That’s not meant to be presumptuous but instead I want you to know that it’s hit me squarely in the face.

    I’m still wondering how all these things are going to come about. And like lots of folks my heart tells me to just let go and let God. But my head is so hard and I’m so lost in what’s happening that I have yet to figure out my way. But, Dusty, you have helped me see more of what I need to see.

    When I saw you on Sunday afternoon after the Singer’s show I asked you to pray for me. I hope you did and I’m asking again. I think you may know more than most people about the fear and distrust I have about just giving up the things I need to leave behind.

    I’m so glad that you found Jesus. And I’m more than happy that after 33 years we can be friends again.

    I pray most days…I won’t say I pray every day…but I know who holds my future, and I know who holds my hand. My prayers are not to have what I want but to be happy with what I need and what God wants me to have. I need some prayer warriors and you’re the first I’m going to ask.

    Thanks Dusty. I hope this hasn’t been too personal.

    Your friend….again,

    • Jimmy –

      I’ve prayed for you just as you asked me to, and will continue to do so. It still amazes and humbles me to find out the people who prayed for me all those years (and still do).

      I’m so glad you read this post and that God used it to speak to you – that’s all I want this blog to be about. God hasn’t called me to preach or teach or lead – He’s just called me to share what He’s done for me. He’ll take care of guiding the right people to read it.

      This first version of this post was actually entirely different. But when I stopped trying to write it myself and let God lead, what you read was the result. I would like to think He had me write it just for you. I can’t think of any bigger blessing than that.

      Listen to God as He speaks to you. That first step to leaving the past behind isn’t always easy. The father of lies had me believing that there was no way I could change – I was who I was and I couldn’t be any different. But that voice of God that you mentioned “gently speaking” gradually broke through those lies.

      The Apostle Paul said that “I [meaning you and me] can do all things through Him who gives me strength.” With God’s help – and only with His help – I left it all behind, Jimmy. I know what you’re going through and I know that you can, too.

      Don’t be afraid – ask God to guide you through it. You ask Him on your end and I will continue to ask Him on mine. I’m going to pray believing. You do, too.

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