Past Mistakes. Future Glory.
By Buddy Gosey
“God didn’t want me here, but God wants to use me here,” said my friend Jahmar at one of my recent visits with him at the Washington County Detention Center.
As soon as he said it, I couldn’t help but smile and exhale. For months I had been visiting my friend and as you would expect, most of our prayers had been for him to be released as soon as possible so he could start his new life following the Lord in the “real world.” My heart ached for him to get out. Among this desire for his freedom, I had completely dismissed the fact that God had a work for him to do on that side of the bars.
As I processed the truth of Jahmar’s declaration, I experienced a precious emotion that had eluded me over the past year: contentment. Jahmar helped me exhale and rejoice in the Lord as I finally began to trust that God truly has a plan for my friend. For the first time, I understood that no matter how long Jahmar was to spend in prison, he would be experiencing the joy of finishing the work God had given him. I began to believe that God can and will work through my friend, no matter where he is.
Jahmar, a young man who had been following Jesus for just a few months, already had been freed from his past. Though he was potentially facing years of jail time, he was more free than many people who sat in a church building this past Sunday. Jesus had replaced his condemnation with qualification. Thanks to Jahmar, God began to teach me how qualifying even our mistakes can be.
His criminal record will keep Jahmar from qualifying for a lot of things. Getting certain jobs will be difficult from now on, if not impossible. He’ll have to wait to vote and probably will never be able to own a gun. Unfortunately, some churches may even deny him opportunities to serve and lead. He will suffer future consequences because of past mistakes.
However, because of Jesus, even our mistakes qualify us for great things. Because of Jesus, Jahmar’s time in jail cannot be considered a waste.
I reminded Jahmar that while he is in jail, he is qualified to be a light in one of the darkest places in our city where few people have access and credibility. He has experiences and a story to share with others that I don’t! I can’t relate to men who grew up without a father. I can’t share about the pressures of trying to find belonging in a tight group of friends who put you in bad situations. I can’t empathize with the struggles faced in prison. But Jahmar can!
Not only does he have a story of past pain, struggle and mistakes, but he now has a story of hope, peace, and purpose found in Jesus. He can declare he is changed and changing still. No one can stop him from sharing his story. He is ready to use his past, now, for God’s glory in the future.
I started visiting Jahmar to minister to him. Now he is the one who reminds me of God’s promises and goodness every time I see him. Jahmar is living proof that “God’s word is not chained.” (2 Timothy 2:9)
What mistakes in your past are you tempted to believe disqualify you? How could God use your mistakes and their consequences to spotlight His glory in your life? Could it be that these experiences actually equip you to walk with others through their brokenness as you point them to a Redeemer?
Life does not go as planned. Sometimes that’s a direct result of our own sin. Other times it is a by-product of living in a broken world. The good news is that the place you feel trapped is the place where God wants to use you. Jahmar is the perfect example of that.
You may say, “Buddy, you don’t know what I’ve done and where I’m at.” That’s likely true, but I promise you it’s never too late and you are never too far gone to return to God’s plan for your life. We serve a God who chooses those with a tattered past, to share their current story for His future glory.
If you feel you are totally off script and too far gone for grace, here is one final reminder from Jahmar. “God may not have desired for you to be where you are, but God wants to use you right where you are.” Your past is a part of your future story that God is still writing. How will you tell it?
Please join me in praying for Jahmar. He has a long road to go and like all of us, is not perfect, but I am confident that God will complete the good work He has started in his life. (Philippians 1:6) Pray Jahmar continues to allow his past to qualify him as he helps bring life change to many.
Want to read more about Jahmar’s journey and how God can use your past to qualify you for future success? Check out Buddy Gosey’s book, Enough:Someday Start Today, which releases March 2nd.