The church family that I recently became a part of has a practice of videotaping various families and having them share their story. After editing the tape down it is shown on Sunday morning as part of our worship assembly. The videotaping serves two main purposes. First of all, it allows the church to get to know families they may not know as well. But more importantly, it allows individuals to share their story, to share how God has been working in their lives, to share how he continues to move and lead them. It is a practice that I have grown to appreciate in just a short time.
Because my family is new to the congregation it seemed appropriate for us to share our story. So, as nerve-wracking as it was to sit down and known that what you are saying is being videotaped and saved for all time, we sat down to share our story. We shared how we met, different places we lived, and then my wife and I took turns sharing our stories of faith, and the steps along the way that God used to change us and mold us into who we are today. We didn’t share everything of course, but we shared the basic storyline in the hopes that it would be an encouragement to others.
Participating in this exercise has caused me to reflect on my own story and what it means to change over time. As I look back at my life journey, and even just my time in ministry, I recognize I am not the same person I was when I started. My beliefs have changed. What I hold to be most important has changed. Some of my non-negotiables are now negotiable, while some things that I thought were completely wrong I now see as justice issues that need to be fought for and changed. I believe that God has brought me to a place of deeper maturity, that he has used life events and mentors and study and his calming presence in my life to change me and mold me into the person and minister he desires me to be. At the same time I believe and hope that in fifteen or twenty years from now I will continue to grow and change and mature from who I am today into who God desires me to be. I have not arrived yet, and I probably never will.
However, I don’t look at myself now as being better than I was before. It’s not that before I was in the dark but now I have been enlightened. It’s not that before I was uneducated but now I am educated. It’s not that before I was a partial Christian but now I am a full Christian. I have changed, and I don’t want to go back to who I was before, but I don’t think I’m better now, just different. And I hope that people don’t judge me for who I was before, because I’ve changed. My faith has changed. What I hold most valuable has changed. I hope that people are gracious with me and do not judge me for who I was ten years ago, but understand that God is still working on me and I will continue to change and mature over time.
And it’s also made me realize that I need to be more gracious to the people I know who hold strongly to beliefs that I have let go of. It would be easy for me to judge them and look down on them and think they need to mature to a better belief system. However, we are at different parts of the journey, and who they are today is not who they will be in ten years, just like who I am today is not who I will be in ten years. There is no need to judge those who have different beliefs. Instead, we should honor all who hold faith in Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior. No one Christian is better than another. So instead of judging each other over who is right and who is wrong, let’s rejoice in the truth that we all hold Jesus as Lord and recognize that we are all at different stages of the journey, and who we are now is not who we will be. Save the judgement for later please.