And I said, Lord, they know that I imprisoned and beat in every synagogue them that believed on thee: And when the blood of thy martyr Stephen was shed, I also was standing by, and consenting unto his death, and kept the raiment of them that slew him.
These were things Paul was not proud of, but they were part of his story. They were part of the reason he had ended up where he was at this moment. It was partly because of that path he had taken that he was so profoundly changed by God and ultimately so usable to Him. It is so often these kinds of things that we hold on to with such regret, these shameful deeds from our past. But God had forgiven Paul. God doesn’t acknowledge those sins any longer. He simply directs Paul where to go next.
The same is true for us. Our past does not define us, though it has shaped us in some ways. Those most shameful things from our past may have been the exact things that got us to where we are today. They may have solidified and strengthened our relationship with the Lord in ways it wouldn’t have been without them. It may be that those things we are least proud of led us to the right place at the right time to experience God’s grace in a profound way and make us usable servants for Him.
But we are forgiven for those sins. They don’t have to affect our future service for the Lord. They don’t have to hold us back and keep us from moving into something new. We have a clean slate. We’re washed by the blood of Christ. We’re redeemed by our Savior. We’re made new. We’re commissioned by Him for His service, and so we are able to go forward into what He has for us.
Everyone, even Paul, has things they’ve done in their lives that they’d like to erase. So many times we can wish we had a chance to undo what we’ve done and make a different choice. But God doesn’t waste anything. And He can take us so far beyond who we used to be that those experiences we once regretted so strongly only remind us of the vastness of God’s grace and love and how big of a difference He has made in our lives. So may we be grateful for the forgiveness that takes away our sin. May we recognize that every moment in our lives has combined to make us who we are today and we can continue to move forward despite where we may have come from.