In all the hoopla that was the 2020 election, I completely forgot my birthday—November 6th. It occurred to me yesterday that on that date I turned 45. Now, if you think I am referring to my physical age and are not surprised, then I’ll take that as a compliment! However, I am referring rather to my born-again birthday.
I was a freshman in college when I was born again. I was lost and searching for my purpose and meaning. God was seeking me in order to lead me on my quest. We met on the night of November 6th in a residence hall basement where a Communion service was taking place. Such love filled that room that I was overwhelmed by it. I told the Lord if this was what he was about, I wanted to be about that, too. Born again. A new creation.
I so wish I could say since that day, I was completely transformed. Eternally, yes, I was. My eternity was sealed that day. Yet, so much work remained in preparation—God’s work, not mine. Reflecting back over 45 years, it would be easy to home in on the myriad of my shortcomings. I was jerky toward many women. I often grew angry, particularly at myself. I complained a lot about others. It took a long time for me to broaden my theological views away from legalism. I was often better at proclaiming what needed to be done than actually doing it. I was often harsh rather than gentle, arrogant rather than humble.
Looking back, it would be easy to be full of regret, and indeed I have been at times. It has been a long process coming to terms with the Lord’s grace and mercy toward me. Now, 45 years into it, I have a different perspective; God’s perspective, I think.
The Lord sees us as we are—his children. He knows we are very far from perfect, but he sees our potential. And he doesn’t wait for our perfection, but uses us along the way. That has been the greatest revelation. Many of us acknowledge this generally, but I think it is more difficult to embrace personally. For we are encouraged to leave a legacy, and legacies, we think, are made up of successes, not failures. I tend to think failures and shortcomings taint legacies, but that is only if we think about our personal legacy. Then all human legacies are tainted. However, if we think of our lives in terms of the Lord’s legacy, then our shortcomings and failures add to it. When he can take the worst of sinners and make him into one of the most famous apostles, that is his legacy. When he works all things together for good, that is his legacy. And when he starts the transforming work in us, he will carry it on to completion, even if it takes a lifetime. That is his legacy.
I believe this is how Paul is able to say that godly sorrow leaves no regret. If we are truly repentant along the way when we fail, then, rather than regret, we rejoice in God’s mercy. The focus is not our sin, but rather on the Lord’s mercy. And that is a legacy that can continue to shine throughout our lives and long after we depart. While we were yet sinners, Christ continued to use us to the end of our lives.
As I look back over my life in the Lord, I see how, despite my many failings, he has used me in so many ways for the sake of his kingdom. He has used me to impact lives, to lead people into a deeper relationship with him. He has used an imperfect man for his purposes. I am a part of his legacy and, regardless of the stumbles along the way, my born-again day is something worth celebrating for his glory, not my own!
© Jim Musser 2020