It’s been five weeks since my open-heart surgery. I look back at some of the things on my list that I was working on and hardly recognize them. I’ll get back into the swing of things, but for the moment I’m a new person. My head space is clear, and my wife thinks it’s permanent.
Are we the collection of experiences that we’ve had and attitudes? Or are we like a flowing stream into which every time we step it’s a new stream of water?
It depends entirely on us. I once wrote that each day we can be a new person. I was surprised when a prison distributed my article internally. We don’t have to be that old person anymore. We’re not captive to our past.
There’s the old joke about a guy who stood before a judge and said it was his other personality that did the crime. The judge sentenced the other personality to jail. Yeah, don’t do the crime if you can’t do the time. The old you is definitely going to pay. But we don’t have to stay the old person that we were.
Old you – no – who you become
You don’t have to stay the old you. Each day can be the new day and new you of the rest of your life. I believe God cares about what you do … but there is forgiveness for what you have done, no matter what you have done. God cares even more about who you become. In God’s eyes, forgiving is forgetting. The past is wiped away. You are a new person if you turn away from bad things and turn toward love.
Steffano James: The goodness of God and forgiveness
Steffano is incarcerated, but leads Bible and worship services. Used by permission.
“I have lived a life that has been full of crime and I had no real love in my life. In that the people in my life had no idea how to love nor of its true essence. This void within my heart wouldn’t be filled until my forties. I never held a job, kept everyone at bay, had trust issues and was not a person who attended church because I felt that I was out of the reach of God’s love, forgiveness, kindness, protection, and care! How could he care for a person that lived the life that I have lived?!
“I have sat in the seat of incarceration for the past thirty plus years for a crime I didn’t not commit. It would have been easy for me to blame God for putting me here but in actuality, my lifestyle made it possible.
“Confinement leaves one with nothing but the inner thoughts to consider. I had to begin dealing with my own thoughts and how I ended up in the position I am in … locked away from society, friendship, and a way to right the ship of life!
“What I didn’t know was, God had always been in my life watching over me, protecting me, showing me love in forms I only recognize now because I have given my life over to God and now, all things are possible because, if God be for us, who can be against us!
“We serve a loving and forgiving God, there is no sin that can’t be forgiven, our God sent his only son to take upon himself all the sin of the world. Yes, yours and mine, also those in the world that have an opportunity to accept Jesus Christ into their life each day. The decision is theirs, we have free will, I bear witness to the goodness of God, and the forgiveness that I know, I have after accepting Jesus Christ as my Lord and savior.
“Trust that you will be forgiven your sins because God loves you and want to give you a perfect peace, that’s a peace that surpass understanding! It’s impossible for the world to understand God because the world think carnally, and God is spiritual. Meet God in the spirit and God will do the rest. Your faith will carry you forward and the living God will begin to work in your life!
“May peace reside in your life and God’s forgiveness abound in it also.”
It’s easy, but it isn’t
Steffano continued when giving me permission, “For some people it seems too easy. Yet it is, but we aren’t cured from the desire of our flesh in one day – we are a work in progress, so we have to delve into the word and the world will slowly decrease from our desire.”
I’m very appreciative of Steffano’s contribution and hope that it is helpful to many others.
You are what you think
Old habits of thought and action are hard to break. They’re comfortable. They seem to be who we are, even natural. But our thoughts and natural actions don’t have to dominate us. They can be relegated to the scrap heap when we understand they are just junk that harms us more than helps us, and we try to change.
I emphasize that you are what you think. If you ruminate on things that are unhealthy for you and others, then that’s what you are. If you think about healthy things, then that’s what you are. I work with attitude change and it’s all about attitude. If we are driven by our past, we will always have the wrong responses to everything life throws at us. If we focus on love it slowly replaces our old attitudes. We truly transform into a different person.
This also goes for ruminating on the past and our mistakes or life’s injuries. It’s the same as thinking about all of those unhealthy things. We think it, we are it. Thinking about healthy things transforms us into a new person.
Think on these things
The Apostle Paul said, in one of my favorite verses: “Finally, brethren, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is of good repute, if there is any excellence and if anything worthy of praise, dwell on these things. The things you have learned and received and heard and seen in me, practice these things, and the God of peace will be with you.” – Philippians 4: 8-9 (NASB)
Our answer is God. God’s answer is us. In partnership we make the world better.