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Growing pains

There’s a joke I heard ages ago that went something like this; “I ran into an old grade school friend the other day, but when I went up to him his father pulled him away and wouldn’t let me near him. Then I remembered that Billy would have grown up too.” (I didn’t say it was a good joke…)

Do you ever feel as though people are treating you like this? That people who knew you years ago are expecting you to be the same person you were years ago. I’ve had seasonal friends in my life that remain my friends on social media. We haven’t talked or seen each other in ages, but we remain connected on Facebook. Because they haven’t had conversations with me in years, they assume I’m the same person I was when we were friends in a different season. Well, I was a very different person 10 or 20 years ago than I am today. I was even a somewhat different person five years ago. For the past five years, I’ve been working on being a better person than I was and being more grounded in my faith than I was. I certainly have a better relationship with God now than I did even a year ago.

If the people who knew me then embrace the me that I am now, that’s wonderful. But what happens if they don’t? What happens if they call me a fake, a fraud, or a hypocrite? What if they dig up my past behaviors to discount what I am doing now? Does it matter? Should it matter? The easy answer is that it doesn’t and shouldn’t matter. The real answer is that it concerns me. It concerns me because I’m afraid people may believe that I’m a hypocrite or a fraud because of what they hear of my past. I’m worried about what it would do to my reputation as a Catholic writer and speaker. In short, I’m worried about what others will think of me. Maybe you’ve experienced a similar situation. Maybe, like me, you have concerns about your past “coming back to haunt” you. Or maybe you don’t have a haunting past but are nevertheless concerned about what others will think of you. It’s human nature to want to be accepted, respected, liked, to fit in and to have others think well of us.

The fact of the matter is that we have only one person to answer to and that’s God. Only his opinion of us matters and he loves every part of us. Not only did turning my focus to God help me to overcome my worries, but it also gave me a new perspective. I don’t need to run from my past out of fear of what others may think. Instead, I can embrace my growth and use my past as an example to others that God still loves us even when we aren’t so loveable. As I stated in a previous post, Jesus is nearer the weak, the sinners and the ones who have haunted pasts. I can also speak to the fact that it’s never too late to grow. It’s never too late to be a better person and it’s never too late to find God. No matter what you’ve done in the past, you can do better today. Oscar Wilde wrote, “every saint has a past, and every sinner has a future.” I would say that because of God, saints overcame their pasts and with God, sinners have a future.

I know where I’ve been, I know where I am now, and I trust God in where I’m going. Neither my past nor the opinions of others can hurt me. In the past, I didn’t know who I was. Today, I know whose I am.


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