Almost daily I come into contact with someone who feels worthless or disappointed with life. I can relate.
When I was a senior in high school, a guidance counselor told me that I was a loser and that I would "never amount to anything in life." I did not take this criticism well. In fact, I spent the remainder of my teenage years searching for significance in the world. Dropping out of high school and floundering for a season, I squandered many good options.
Transformation came when I was accepted into a loving community of faith at Trevecca Nazarene University in Nashville. My personal growth was fostered and I was given a glimpse into an alternative Kingdom — one that welcomed my brokenness. The faithful community of Jesus is called to point us to Him for liberation from brokenness. Now, I know that.
Learning that I belonged to a larger community made all the difference in my life. No longer ashamed, I began to thrive.
There have been moments along the way with potential for poetic justice. After I graduated with my master's degree, some family and friends suggested I could send my list of accomplishments to that high school guidance counselor. They were proud of me, and their sentiment was well intentioned.
But I didn't want to allow those old and hurtful words to define me.
It would have been easy to play the victim, using the counselor's words to fuel my work ethic, but I never did that. I suppose the hurt and pain of that time is a part of me in some way but I'd never thought to use something negative to motivate me toward something good. However, God does that with us quite often, creating beauty from ashes.
As I shepherd people, I find that many of them are dealing with past hurts and failures. Some wear their pain as a badge, clearly identifying them as wounded. But we are not a wounded people. We don't need to use the past to motivate us. Instead, the promise and hope of Jesus can move us toward the future. And you know what I've found? That gives us joy now.
Matt Hastings serves as senior pastor of Grace Church of the Nazarene in Chattanooga, Tennessee.
Hoilness Today, Jul/Aug 2010