As the final chapters of Acts unfold, we see how easily Paul shared his story with so many:
Each time Paul recounts his story he includes the good, the bad, and the ugly. Once a hunter of the followers of Jesus, he embraced even this part of his story. His persecution of believers was horrific, yet Paul wasn’t ashamed. He had an encounter with Jesus and was set completely free.
So often, as we come to Jesus, we hide, ignore, gloss over our past. But our past, combined with our encounter with Jesus— that, my friend, is our testimony.
The Hebrew word for testimony comes from a root word that literally means “do again.” Every time we share our story, we create a landing place for God to come and do it again, so others can encounter Jesus and experience freedom.
Paul had every right to be ashamed of his past. What could be worse than fiercely hunting followers of Jesus? Yet Paul modeled for us how to embrace every part of our story without shame, guilt, or embarrassment.
In the most intense time of Paul’s full-time genocidal mission, he encountered Jesus. On the road of hatred and murder, Jesus appears to him personally. (Acts 9:4) At some point, we were all on a road headed away from Him when He intersected our lives and called us to follow Him. Jesus always intends our past to become the testimony to the world— we are called to be a witness. Shame fights against this calling, causing us to be negatively focused inward. Jesus wants to renew our self-image with the truth, so we see ourselves the way He sees us.
Paul was so transformed by his encounter with Jesus that there was no shred of shame left. The day Jesus met me in my car, He took all the shame and guilt from deep in my soul, and allowed me to share about it.
Jesus wants to meet with you, too, and mend the broken places you cannot even name. Sit for a moment with Jesus. Ask Him if there is any part of your past that is still covered in guilt or shame. Allow Him to show you what He wants to heal. As He brings events and emotions to mind, spend a few minutes forgiving and releasing those involved— including yourself. Ask Jesus what the truth is. Ask Him what He sees. Tell Him you desire to be able to minister grace and salvation to others from these past experiences.
There is power in the testimony of a woman set free from her past. May you embrace every part of your story. Then go and be a witness so that others can encounter Him also.