“Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; old things have passed away; behold, all things have become new.”
2 Corinthians 5:17 (NKJV, emphasis added)
I just returned from my hometown of Shreveport, Louisiana, where I attended my 20-year high school reunion. Yep, that’s right, 20 years. I was a little apprehensive to attend. Not so much for the obvious reasons that some folks hate to go back, such as the fact that hair may be graying and hips may be widening. No, I just didn’t like the idea of going back. Period. To think about going back took me to a time that was, shall I say, less than pleasant. It was a time when I was desperately trying to make life work apart from Jesus, and all I succeeded in making was one big mess. You see, when Jesus finally did get hold of me and pull me out of those pits, He was gracious enough to set my feet in a new place, one where I could begin to learn to walk this thing out without having to constantly face the “ghosts” of my past (that place would be God’s country, i.e. North Carolina). But now, here I was, formally invited to face the ghosts for the first time in quite a few years.
Needless to say, this would have been a perfect opportunity for me to begin wearing a cloak of shame. I wouldn’t be honest if I didn’t admit that I experienced a few days of negative, critical self-talk, but I didn’t stay there near as long as I could have (or as long as the enemy of my soul would have liked for me to!). Because the Lord is so precious, He would not allow me to live in that condemnation. One way that He has frequently spoken to me is through music. And that was His mode of communication this time as well. A few weeks prior to the reunion, I was listening for the first time to a worship CD by Travis Cottrell, when a song came on that nearly took my breath away. As I was driving down the road listening, I thought I would have to pull over as the words began to wash over me. I listened as the worshipper sang,
“Who I am is a mystery I can’t explain, ‘cause Your mercy fell like healing rain, and washed away my past. Who I was—all my secrets, all my hidden pain — now Your grace has broken every chain, and set me free at last. Who I was before, doesn’t matter anymore…”
After I caught my breath, I wanted to jump out of that car and shout Glory! God’s timing was, of course, amazingly perfect. I think the fact that I am a new creation finally made it from my head to my heart. Sure, there have been times when I have had a “heart understanding” of this truth, but something about this time really brought it home, if you know what I mean. All of us who are in Christ—who have accepted Him as our Lord and Savior—are new creations. Old things have passed away. Who we were before doesn’t matter anymore. Behold, all things have become new. That word new in the original language is kainos. It means “fresh, unused, unworn, of a new kind…” How many of us have needed to know that our lives are now fresh…of a new kind? Obviously, I have! And the young women who are finding their way to Restoration Place Ministries need to know this as well. I’m finding that every bit of my personal journey is very much worth it, just so that I can proclaim without delay to each of these precious ones, “He has changed your name!” They come with stories scarred by abuse, by idolatrous relationships, by sexual sin and addictions, and by any other stronghold you might imagine. And they need to know that by His grace and mercy, He will break every chain and write new beginnings to the stories of their lives. He is Jehovah-Rapha, the Lord who heals. Praise His name!
Before I close, I suppose I should share how the reunion went. Well, it turned out quite remarkably. I must confess, it was actually a little amusing to see the shock on some faces when they heard I had just graduated from seminary! I’m now known by some in that part of the country as “Pastor Mondello”! But seriously, when I walked through the door, I knew to the depth of my being that I am a new creation. Who I was before doesn’t matter anymore. By His power, I was free to just be who He created me to be and to love others with the authenticity of Christ’s love. Above all, my prayer was and still is that if people indeed saw a difference in me, it was not for my sake, but for HIS glory!