When I was in the 4th grade, I hung around a group of girls who ruled our classroom. We were mean. Our teacher, Mrs. Kirk, didn't like me or any of my friends for good reason. There was one girl in particular we decided to ostracize that school year. We just pretended we didn't know her anymore and completely cut her out of our group. During the summer break I went to a stars retreat at the Potomac Park Campground and gave my heart to Jesus AGAIN. Growing up in church I had often recited the sinner's prayer and each time felt I meant it. But this time something changed in me. I understood a little more of who Jesus was and who He wanted me to be.
Then the new school year came around and I started 5th grade. Guess what? This girl remembered me. Every time she saw me, she would give me mean looks and say mean things to me. I remember God convicting me about my behavior the year before. I asked God to show me what to do to fix what I had done to her. God told me just what to do. He said to smile at her every time I saw her. Then He told me to say something nice to her. Before I knew it, she stopped scowling at me. God mended that relationship and we became great friends. I thank God that when I see her even now I don't have to hang my head or turn away from her in shame.
This is my first memory of my before and after in my relationship with Jesus Christ. He changed me that year. I believe everyone in Christ has a before and an after. For some who came to Christ late or later in life, they have many experiences of living a sinful life and can remember clearly Christ transforming power in their life. Maybe they were delivered from depression, drug abuse, or any number of things that gives them a clear distinction of what Christ has done for them.
But for some of us, like myself, who cut our teeth on the church pew, we might feel differently. Maybe we feel there was no before. We are thankful God has kept us in a relationship with Him. We realize our lives could have taken a terrible turn if we hadn't known Christ's love and forgiveness. However, there still was a point no matter how young we were when we accepted Christ that we changed and grew in Him. And it's this growing that we have our many before and afters. God's Word tells us we have a before because "all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God" (Romans 3:23). We know we have an after because when you accept Jesus Christ to be Lord of your life, you become "a new creation in Christ; the old has gone, the new has come" (2 Corinthains 5:17).
I have many before and afters because God had a lot to clean up like pride, hate, unforgiveness, judgements, and self-centerness just to name a few. There is still more for God to do in me. Growing in your relationship with God means you have allowed Him to make these changes, to clean your spiritual house. Sharing these transformations are our testimonies of Christ's power, love, grace, and real presence in our lives. We must go through these changes to grow into the vessel in which Christ's love flows through to others just like it did to my friend in 5th grade.