My past is a shameful place.
Being confronted by police officers on a dark road with a college boyfriend, the two of us in a very compromising position. And it wasn’t the only time we were caught.
Nights when I would sit in my room and wait for a boy to sneak over to the house. I had only one thing on my mind.
Sitting at the kitchen table with my parents, wishing the collar on my sweater would cover all the hickeys on my neck from the night before. Some poor choices are more visible than others.
The notes in the planner I kept my senior year where I recorded all the boys’ names I made out with. Some were boyfriends, some were just friends with benefits.
The places I made out with boys…back porches, driveways, open fields, the woods, cars —parked or moving, I didn’t care — bedrooms, basements, pools, bathrooms — anywhere I felt like it, really.
My weakness was always boys. And even though I never crossed the elusive line so revered by church-approved abstinence programs…I sure did get as close to it as I possibly could and as often as I could. I wore the True Love Waits ring…but my commitment to purity was questionable. Perhaps my virginity was in name only, a token I wore to reassure myself that what I was doing wasn’t that bad.
Why bring up all this now? I can have a long and happy life without sharing details about, I know, right, a surprisingly checkered past. Authenticity is increasingly important to me. Image is the biggest thing at risk here. My husband knows all of this, and more, and chooses not to treat me like damaged goods. Bearing my soul now after so many years protecting the good girl persona?
I don’t know if my mom and dad knew all I was hiding. If they did, they either chose to ignore what they knew or they used great restraint in helping me to make better choices. I was searching for acceptance and approval — neither of which I felt were adequately given at home. It wasn’t my dad’s fault. He tried to communicate acceptance and approval, but the type of acceptance and approval I wanted just couldn’t come from a parent. I craved peer approval and I received it best when I was alone with a boy. Sharing secrets like this means I will be judged. She did what? I know this may change the way people think about me; sadly, keeping hidden things hidden really is easier.
I bring up all of this now because I’m a parent of young boys. Sweet, innocent, impressionable young boys who are not much different than sweet, innocent, impressionable young Amanda. They have a need for acceptance and approval and though I can toil and spin away the years trying to give them my acceptance and approval…sometimes the acceptance and approval they crave just can’t come from a parent. They have many of the same tools I did: two parents who love each other, financial stability, food to eat, clean clothes to wear, a supportive church home, opportunities to enjoy life and have fun, an enriching school experience, aspirations for the future. And yet, even with all that, my heart pursued some very wicked things. And so will theirs.
My kids are going to make mistakes. They’re going to make mistakes that rock me to my core. They’re going to get as close to those lines as they can and as often as they can. Sometimes I put myself in my parents’ place and I’m hit again with how brazen I was. I wasn’t even considered to be a rebellious teenager, but I certainly had threads of rebellion running through me. They might not be considered rebellious teenagers but I have to be aware that threads of rebellion run through them, too.
My response to their mistakes is crucial. My relationship with them before the mistakes are made is even more crucial. Am I brave enough to admit I veered off course and brave enough to walk beside them when they do the same? Am I mature enough to recognize the untamable flesh pulling them as the same untamable flesh that pulled me? It makes me nervous to know one of them could read this. But will I be like so many in my life who were only brave enough to say, “If you knew the things I’ve done…I’ve done some…pretty…bad…stuff.” Regrettably, I don’t know the things you’ve done and your platitude is of no consequence to me, or to my boys, if you can’t get down in the mess with us. My boys will need more than platitudes. They will need to see a God who is big enough to fill them with what they’re missing. They will need to see me as I truly am, vulnerable and authentic, if they are going to let me help them untangle the chains that the search for acceptance and approval will have around their hearts.
I’m also sharing this because I believe in redemption. I believe in sweet, beautiful grace. Grace kept me from actually crossing that line. Grace kept my parents from kicking me out. Grace sheltered me from being abused or raped in the arms of a guy with hands too swift and desperate to be stopped. Grace consistently, quietly whispered acceptance and approval until I finally heard it. Grace covered it all even when I was unaware.
My memories remain and haunt. I would go back and change things if I could. I gave parts of myself away too soon with too little concern for my future and my husband. I squandered away years with my parents that could have been filled with so much more than lies and deceit.
Ephesians 2:4 “But God, being rich in mercy…”
When my kids mess up — big time — but God. When you look at the mess living in your own home — but God. When you trained them up in the way they should go, and they departed anyway — but God. When you consider mistakes you’ve made — but God. When your tomorrow looks bleaker than your today — but God. When the path is dark, when they’ve lost their way, when you think the door might be closed for good this time — but God.
When you think all is lost — but God — because His is grace is a beautiful thing.
“There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus, for the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus has set me free from the law of sin and of death.” Romans 8:1-2
“Forget the former things; do not dwell on the past. See, I am doing a new thing! Now it springs up; do you not perceive it? I am making a way in the desert and streams in the wasteland.” Isaiah 43:18-19
“If you have made mistakes…there is always another chance for you. You may have a fresh start any moment you choose, for this thing we call failure is not the falling down, but the staying down.” — Mary Pickford (American actress)
“I’m living proof…grace wins every time.” — Matthew West (singer, songwriter)