I am willing.

To You, O Lord, I lift up my soul.
O my God, in You I trust;
    let me not be put to shame;
Make me to know Your ways, O Lord;
    teach me Your paths.
Lead me in Your truth and teach me,
    for You are the God of my salvation;
    for You I wait all the day long.
Remember Your mercy, O Lord, and Your steadfast love,
    for they have been from of old.
Remember not the sins of my youth or my transgressions;
    according to Your steadfast love remember me,
    for the sake of Your goodness, O Lord!
Good and upright is the Lord;
    therefore He instructs sinners in the way.
He leads the humble in what is right, and teaches the humble His way.
All the paths of the Lord are steadfast love and faithfulness,
    for those who keep His covenant and His testimonies.
For your name's sake, O Lord,
    pardon my guilt, for it is great.
Who is the man who fears the Lord?    Him will He instruct in the way that he should choose.
The friendship of the Lord is for those who fear Him,
    and He makes known to them His covenant.
My eyes are ever toward the Lord,
    for He will pluck my feet out of the net.
Turn to me and be gracious to me,
    for I am lonely and afflicted.
The troubles of my heart are enlarged;
    bring me out of my distresses.
Consider my affliction and my trouble,
    and forgive all my sins.
            ~Psalm 25

Isn't this Psalm lovely?  Filled with grace, confession, repentance, forgiveness ... and a reminder that even in the ugliest parts of us, where our sin hides deep, waiting for a chance to live and thrive again ... we belong to a God who desires our holiness and will instruct us in the way of truth, pardon our guilt, make us humble, pull us out of the net of sin that ensnare us, show us grace ~ and be our FRIEND.  What promises to cling to in our trials and distresses!

I currently have two women in my life whom the Lord is using to refine me - and they don't even know it!  One sat on my couch almost a year ago and shared some of the most embarrassing parts of her life with me, willingly, and I was able to identify with every-single-one-of-them.  We were both stunned.  She, because she could not believe an older, more mature Christian would admit to such failings and sin, and me, because I had almost completely forgotten about those secret places of my past.  After locking the door when we ended our evening together, I stood motionless as I recalled how gracious God has been not only to help me kill that part of my sinful flesh, but to let me forget it and move forward, rather than living in the eternal bondage of guilt.  (which has been my default most of my life)  I spent the next few days in a state of euphoria as I rejoiced over such a blessing.  I, Michelle Eastman, felt FREE from my past ... and had actually forgotten most of it.  What grace!  What mercy!

The other woman shared but a few sentences in a group setting, but she did so with such passion, sincerity and vulnerability that I knew there was something deeper that had to be explored.  She needed to share the details - the ugly - the shameful.  But you cannot do that with just anyone. You need trust, respect, and mutual transparency.  I prayed for her immediately, asking the Lord how I could minister to her and then BAM!  She asked if we could meet because she needed a "safe place" to bare her soul.  Me, Lord?  She is trusting me?  Okay - prepare me.  And boy did He ever!

And then these two women collided together when the Lord wrapped up all of their personal struggles and their sin and dropped them into my lap to untangle and study and sort out - and used every moment to walk me through my past to remind me ...

* There, but for the grace of God go I.  My sin is forgiven, covered, and I am under no condemnation - just the cleansing blood of Christ.  But - my past is REAL, and I cannot forget what I have been saved from ... I cannot forget how wretched I can be ... I cannot forget the shame and pain and struggle that I willingly engaged in.  Because if I do, I will lose all humility, and will not be able to sit quietly and listen to my sister in Christ as she shares her deepest pain, her deepest shame, knowing how much this confession is costing her.  I have to remember where I came from so I can fully embrace the beauty of God's mercy and forgiveness.  I need not dwell there, I am forgiven and set FREE - but I cannot forget.

* I may be 20 years older and 20 years wiser, but I am still a fleshly sinner who can fall back into the same pits I climbed out of - even willingly.  Conquering sin, and being spared from continuous temptation is a blessed thing indeed.  But I am a sinner.  I am not wholly righteous.  And as soon as I think I am untouchable in a specific area - satan will creep in and remind me just how quickly I can fall back into old patterns.  And sadly, even enjoy them!  Oh, Lord, please continue to kill the flesh I worked so hard to die to in my youth.  I never want to go back.  It took so much work and energy and effort to break those habits ... and I like being free!  I never want to wear the chains of bondage again! Remember not the sins of my youth, Lord!

* If given the chance, I would most definitely go back and change things about my past - make better choices - choose Christ rather than self.  There is no question about that.  But because I cannot go back ... I need to have a proper perspective about the empty chains collecting dust in my closet.  They are real.  They exist.  And right now, there is another woman who feels the same weight of her own chains ... she hears the rattling and cringes with the shame and fear of being found out ... she hates her confinement and wants to break free ... but every time she tries, she falls down again, cut and bruised, and feels like she will never, ever find that freedom.

And that is when I need to remember where I was - who I was - and the choices I made that broke the heart of God ... and RUN.TO.HER crying out all the way,

The friendship of the Lord is for those who fear Him,
    and He makes known to them His covenant.
My eyes are ever toward the Lord,
    for He will pluck my feet out of the net.
Turn to me and be gracious to me,
    for I am lonely and afflicted.
The troubles of my heart are enlarged;
    bring me out of my distresses.
Consider my affliction and my trouble,
    and forgive all my sins.

And if we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to FORGIVE us our sins, and cleanse us from ALL unrighteousness!

Lord, thank You for using these two women to remind me of your huge, gracious, merciful, and forgiving heart. No sin is too great to be forgiven, and no sin is too small to be confessed. You let Your Son die on a cross so that I might LIVE. The chains are gone! I am forgiven! I am set free! Make me ever aware of my freedom in YOU – and keep me aware of the bondage I chose in the past so that I might
be a tangible source of encouragement and grace for a woman sitting across from me who needs to hear, “I know. I KNOW. And I know the One who can forgive you – heal you – and make you whole. Let’s go to Him – together.” My past cannot be for nothing, Lord. No matter how embarrassing, I am willing to let it be used for Your glory and to help heal another. Use me, Lord. I am willing.

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