I owe you an apology Culpeper.
I said I hated you…over and over again…to lots of people…for many years.
And I thought I meant it.
I wanted to blame someone or something or someplace for the way I used to behave.
So I chose you Culpeper.
I’m so sorry.
Until recently…it’s been much easier to blame you than to face the reality of what I was blaming you for.
For as far back as I can remember…every bad thing that ever happened to me happened in Culpeper. But even bigger than that was all the bad things I, personally, had done, especially in my teen to 20 years…my defining and growing-into-an-adult years…happened in Culpeper.
I have tried to get away from Culpeper many times but somehow…I end up there again…and each time I do…I hate you more…or so I thought.
Two or three weeks ago, I’m with friends at the park in Culpeper…laughing…just hanging out…minding my own business…I look up at some people walking and lock eyes with someone who knew the old me really well. I muttered to my friend…”This is why I hate Culpeper.”
Felt good to just blame you, Culpeper, and then move on. This has been my pattern for YEARS. Blame you…move on.
Last weekend, I was out with my family…in Culpeper…eating dinner. I felt joyful. Good conversation. Laughing. Minding my own business…in my own little world. I look up and lock eyes with someone who I knew when I was in high school. Someone who knew me well…back then…in the bad ole days.
Immediately in my mind…I said “This is why I hate Culpeper.” But this time…it didn’t feel good to blame you…and I couldn’t move on.
I nose-dived into a pit of shame.
It wasn’t you I hated, Culpeper…it was me.
I couldn’t shake it off this time. I have come to realize that when this happens…God is up to something in my heart.
He wanted me to face fully who I used to be…ALL OF IT.
Sure…bits and pieces have been healed in me…but the deep, dark, shoved-and-stomped-down nastiness of who I used to be without Jesus…He wanted me to look at it full in the face and confess it and repent from all of it.
It is a hard thing to say out loud the things you’ve done that are hidden. Some things people just don’t know about you. Some things you wish you didn’t know about you.
I was covered in it. Suffocating in the thickness of it.
I’ve spent my whole life running from who I was. I pinned who I was on you, Culpeper. I’ve set about, working very hard, cleaning up my act and trying to be a success so that no one would know about who I used to be. I took who I used to be and called it Culpeper and then tried to stay away from Culpeper.
But it still haunted me…and every time I go to Culpeper and run into someone I used to know…I grow angrier and more frustrated and I’d frankly rather just stay home.
God wants to heal me…FULLY. He can’t use my life if I keep running from it, unhealed.
Not only that, my actions proved that I still wasn’t fully believing what His Word says…the Scripture I use for New Life is 2 Corinthians 5:17 FOR IF A MAN BELONGS TO CHRIST, HE IS A NEW PERSON. THE OLD LIFE IS GONE. NEW LIFE HAS BEGUN.
I am a thick-headed one and God is so patient with me. Sigh.
My husband is also very patient with me. He has spent the last week…pointing me back to Jesus and His Word and who I am in Christ…reminding me what God says about me. Jeff is so awesome and such a blessing to me.
And…by the grace of God…I made it out of the valley!
The skies are clear and it is beautiful…
My life is not perfect…and I have no doubt that I will visit the valley again…but my life is a beautiful mess and I pray that God uses every bit of it for His glory.
I do hate it that I have so much sin in my past…BIG SIN…but my God is SO MUCH BIGGER…BIGGER than all of it together in a pile heaped up with all of your sin! HE IS BIGGER THAN ALL OF IT…FOREVER!
For those of us that have so much sin and you find it hard to look at it…stop running…look at it…confess the ugliness of it and REPENT.
Look at this beautiful Scripture that my husband found in Luke yesterday…I can hardly wait to type it…
This is Jesus speaking people…listen up! “I tell you that in the same way there will be more rejoicing in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine righteous persons who do not need to repent.” (Luke 15:7)
OH BIG SIGHS!!!! That is beautiful!
It is not too late for you…that seems to be my biggest heart cry lately…It is not too late! Don’t give up! Repent and draw near to the LORD.
There is new life NOW for us because of the Gospel of Jesus Christ.
I grieved this week over who I used to be. I needed to. I think it was healthy. I left no stone unturned…or at least I don’t think I did…I’m a work in progress…so we shall see!
But I also grieved over the opportunities that I have passed up over the last 10 years to actually love people in Culpeper.
I don’t have to hang my head in shame when I run into someone I used to know…
How in the world does that show people what Jesus is capable of in someone’s life? How does running the other way or ignoring someone actually lead to someone even being able to taste and see that the LORD is good?
This is why I owe you an apology Culpeper.
From now on, I will look at you through the lens of God’s grace and mercy that He so lavishly poured out on me…
Kandace Rather says
We are all works in progress! From one delivered BIG sinner to another, you are showing us that Jesus is MUCH bigger than our sin and HIS LOVE never fails. Love you more.
Ken Fleet says
Congratulations on relieving your guilt, but you are overlooking one important thing. Cupeper is a town. You hurt people, not a town. From now on when you see those people…walk up to them and simply say,”I’m sorry for who I used to be!” If they accept that, it is well and good. If not, it will remain their problem and not yours. You will have another chance at your high school reunion. Do the same thing there. God Bless your efforts.
Debbie Utz says
Thank you for your comment Ken. I apologize if I did not communicate myself well. I never intended to make the town of Culpeper sound bigger than the people in it. I spoke of the missed opportunities of not loving the people there because everyone there fell under my perception of Culpeper and my past–which I have always tried to run from. My point is that we are not our past mistakes. In fact, neither Culpeper nor Debbie are the point here. I have been guilty of making my past mistakes larger than my God. Realizing that…repenting from that and moving forward in my new life in Christ IS a relief.
Kandace Rather says
I’m thankful Debbie’s guilt was washed away long ago by her loving Savior & Redeemer Jesus Christ. I’m thankful she is courageously sharing parts of her journey in discovering the new life Christ has given her. I’m also thankful for the purity of her heart as she allows Jesus to continue to heal and restore her past.
And I know Debbie has already taken opportunities to express her sorrow to those who will listen. I am sure there will be more opportunities in the future and I’m confident she will humbly seek forgiveness for the pain her sins have caused, knowing of the radical grace and mercy which she’s already known in Christ.
Sooo good. Thank you for keeping it real!