When You Dig Up the Past All You Get is Dirty (But Thankfully God Lets Us Bathe)


October 10, 2012 by A Girl Like Me

So there were quite a few girls who initially asked about how a guy deals with a girl who “has a past,” and how could God give a girl with a past a godly man.  So my loving wife handed me this most daunting blog topic and asked me to speak into this.  So here is my attempt to communicate the great and profound mystery of …well, grace.
I can’t really tell you what to do, or how to do it, but I can tell you (as a male), my perspecitve and my story.  When Heather and I were dating we went for a while in that oh so familiar phase of “unconditional ignorance.”  This phase is sort of like your relationship with a boss or teacher.  They hold an importance and somewhat life-directing influence in your life but if you could break into their homes you would find a stash of Golden Girls reruns, Twinky wrappers, and a pile of laundry next to the sink of dirty dishes.  Really quite embarassing and almost disqualifying.  So, this unconditional ignorance pretty much drives most of our relationships.  How well do we *really* know someone? Do we even really want to know?   If we really knew, that would completely change how we view the other person.
Heather and I were two puppies in love, talking about marriage, carrying about but then we had…
…the talk.
“The talk” is the most brutal of situations.  All preconceived notions of someone are quickly dismantled. Emotions are intensely insecure, and any mask that you previously wore is now smashed on the ground.  You’ve basically passed gas in the middle of small group prayer and hope that no one looks at you.  You’re left standing there, bare, and fully known.
Heather told me of a few things in her past, and I did the same about myself.  It was hard.  It hurt so bad.  I don’t remember too many details about the moment, but I remember an intense feeling of guilt toward her.  I kept telling her I was sorry about what I had done because at the time -I didn’t know who she was.  We wouldn’t be having this painful moment if I had known who she was…and who she would be-  My wife.
Some of you know what this feeling is like.  Some of you live a life that will do whatever it takes to prevent this from happening.   I want you girls to know this:  We ALL have something.  We all have MANY somethings.  This fear of coming clean is driven by a lie of loneliness.  That what we have in hiding is too hideous to bring into day light.  That what lies beneath is ugly and should be hidden at all costs.  And what we deal with is an isolated event that no one else can relate to.
The truth is, God allows for redemption just as much (even more) as He allows the bad things.  The moment Heather and I shared brought us closer than we had been before.  And what is more beautiful is that that moment opened the door to healing.  There are still moments where that old crap finds it’s way to the surface in our relationship.  Memories come back, old wounds reopened, insecurities reminding us that they’re still trying to dominate us.  But now there’s two of us to fight them.  We’re not alone anymore.  This fact brings more joy to my heart than any other relationship I have.  My love for Heather outweighs the dreams of a thousand men because she is my own and I know her for her.  Marriages come and go because star-crossed lovers lean on cheer.   But eventually storms come.
Love is a choice.  I must choose everyday to love Heather.  She must choose the same.  If we did not choose, our deceitful heart would choose the path of least resistance every time.  It would choose darkness over light.  Happy feelings over a greater calling.  May we lean on the Holy Spirit and what the word tells us every day!
Some of you are afraid that God won’t give you a godly man because you’re too ruined to be adored by anyone.  The truth is we all deserve nothing.  The fact is you don’t deserve a godly man.  But, He will give you himself.  Is that what you desire most?  Isn’t that what makes you white as snow?  God has a funny way of putting things in our path that are exactly what we need.  Once we realize that we have been made new in Christ, our path just might cross someone else’s who we need to have “the talk” to share with.
That day we both felt like we were sealing the deal on the final moments of our relationship.  We both felt like the last thing we’d see would be the back of the person we loved walking out the door.  But at the same time, we both felt like we had to come clean.  We MUST come clean.
And you know what?  Redemption will win.

28 thoughts on “When You Dig Up the Past All You Get is Dirty (But Thankfully God Lets Us Bathe)

  1. Hannah F. says:

    This is really good Jeff:) it confused me a little though… I’m 17 and never had a relationship- I don’t want to until I feel God telling me when the time is right. So I have absolutely NO concept of what ‘the talk’ is… I presume it’s when you talk about sexual sins promiscuity together? Am I on the right track here? :’)

    • LauraRS says:

      You are on the right track, but I’d say this applies to more than just that. I’ve had a few “talks” with my husband, before and after marriage, where we talked about our deepest darkest secrets: our deepest hurts, our worst sins, the things that we wouldn’t dare whisper to another person. Everyone has done shameful things. Letting someone else know them can be the most freeing feeling, when they also love you and know that they themselves are undeserving of the grace that God has given them. God has given us an amazing marriage. Each of us knows that we are undeserving of the other person, and that’s exactly how it should be. We should all marvel at the grace of God in the gift of another person, and marvel more that He should give us His Son.

      • Hannah F. says:

        Now I am a little older, I understand it better! :) thanks for your comment, LauraRS- only just had an email to notify me of it!! Still no relationship as of yet for me, but I totally understand how amazing it is to share burdens with those close to us :) I look forward to having a husband to share these things with too! :) thank you!

  2. Thanks Jeff. I think you put it in just the right terms. I have been so scared that if I did find some one telling them about the rape, abuse, and the time in the mental hospital that they would see me as broken and damaged goods. I have been told many times before the rape and the hopital visit that it would take some one special to be my better half because of the abuse and the way I love people. Now it seems that what you are saying is if I can find a way in my heart to see that God looks past this and someone comes along to actually share all this with if they have faith the way I do that I won’t look so broken and damaged to them when they see me through the eyes of Christ. The people in my group therapy would not agree with that. We have talked about disclosing things and what effect it has one a relationship. Most of them are married and their husbands don’t even know. I guess what I am getting out of everything you said was that if they do turn and run or judge because of what has happened they aren’t really someone that I want in my life in the first place.. Wow once again another blog to make me think about things in a new way. Looking forward to hearing from all the girls on here about this.

    • Yep.I do believe you understood everything correctly. :) I’m sorry the people in your group are closed like you said they are. But, we have all been closed at one point or another, and their time to take off their masks will come. Also, I can’t help but comment on your sentence where you mentioned the phrase “to be my better half”. Nobody completes you accept Christ. I’m sure you know this, but I just want to be sure. A lot of the times in this world we hear the concept that we are not complete until we find that “special someone”, as if they are what makes us whole. That is not the case, though. A relationship is not two halves to make a whole, a relationship is two wholes to make one amazing bondage via Christ.

  3. tina says:

    Unlike Hannah, I know exactly what u mean, Jeff. Hannah u are on a right track there. Keep it up. I do not believe “the talk” is just about sexual promiscuity though. There are many different ways we fall 9as humans), they way we treat othere, drugs, drinking, how we were treated by someone we trusted, etc… I believe when we feel it is time for “the talk” that may be a way of knowing because if the other person stays the course with u then most likely they are someone u should be choosing to love every day.

    • Hannah F. says:

      Hahahaha, I get it now :) it’s just about being brutally honest and having really deep conversations… I find it interesting though, that one should feel compelled to sit down and tell everything. In my experience, it’s something that happens naturally over a period of time as you continue to get to know people that things like that come out. Make sense?

  4. Lisa says:

    Love is a choice….love it:) Having been married 26 years, I can def say that is so very true…every day is a chance to focus on the positive and stand together as a couple, no matter what has happened before. God is faithful!! Thanks for this Jeff…so appreciate your insight and honesty!

  5. Cc says:

    Awesome Jeff , Thank you for your thoughts :)

  6. Tina W. says:

    Well, a little blubbery from those last couple paragraphs, but feeling lighter in my spirit. I know God has been working on me to heal the damage that was done not just before I came to Christ, but since then as well. I can live without other people’s approval but I can’t live without God’s grace. My past is forgotten by Him & that’s all that truly matters. If there is someone out there for me, He’s working on them just as He is on me; His timing is perfect. Thanks, Jeff.

  7. Julia Gregory says:

    Thank you Jeff, I don’t really have Godly figures & I really haven’t had a relationship since Christ but I have made mistakes & one day I will share with my husband.

  8. Jessi Charron says:

    This is amazing!!!! Thanks Jeff!!!!

  9. Lori says:


    First off, I must say…I burst out laughing at the “You’ve basically passed gas in the middle of small group prayer and hope that no one looks at you” part. Bahahah. You had my attention before that sentence (cause I was one of those many girls that were thinking/asking about that) but that like, solidified my attention. Kudos!

    On a more serious note, thank you for this. Thank you to you and Heather for both being so honest in sharing your struggles. Even though you didn’t go in depth (nor did you have to, of course) but just the fact itself that you admit WE STRUGGLE is amazing in and of itself.

    I’ve come to the conclusion that I want a man who is broken in Jesus Christ. Not someone who is super tough and macho and full of himself, but someone who knows how definitely screwed up he is without Christ. Someone who recognizes his want and NEED for Christ and His redemption, grace, mercy, forgiveness, hope.

    Thank you, my brother, for being one of those men. It is really appreciated.

  10. Mimi says:

    Thank you for this post and for your honesty! The way you guys are so open and honest about your life and your struggles gives me great Christian examples to look up to!

    I do have one question, however. And I doubt there’s a specific answer. Any guidelines would help, though. How do you know WHEN in a relationship it is time to have “the talk” and start letting that person know things that only your spouse should know? I’ve been in relationships in the past where I was very vulnerable and open, and now I have to live with the fact that that person will always know secrets about me that I wish with everything in me that only my future husband knew. How do I avoid this happening in the future?

    Thank you again for this!! It’s really helped me embrace how freeing it will be to be open with my future husband rather than fearing “the talk”.

  11. EvSantos says:

    That was such a revelation to me! Thank you for explaining it so gracefully but with a jab. A jab that has truth behind its fist. My daughter would be blessed with this top.
    What does Heather think about your blog?
    Thank you so much!!

  12. I suspected this would be amazing. Jeff, you are amazing. Heather, you are amazing. All of you are amazing!

    By the way folks, if you haven’t read Jeff’s Formspring, I seriously recommend you do. He says a lot of good stuff in there. Just go to “Jeff’s Blog” on tenthavenuenorth.com

    So good.

  13. carlamargene says:

    Soothing words to an aching heart. Thank you!
    I am a 39 year old single and have had this hard Talk three times. It has always happened early in the relationship because sometimes it just…comes up that I was in an emotionally abusive sexual relationship when I was too young to protect myself. I always feel like I have to warn him: wait, are you sure you want to pursue someone who is damaged goods? One man replied in anger. One man replied in judgement. One man replied with so much grace and brotherly love that I felt that God used him to heal a wound that I had thought was already mended. The lesson from this all is that telling the truth of the past really does expose everything to the Light. Shame is no match for Grace and God will be Glorified every time where there is faith.

  14. greenradiance says:

    Reblogged this on Musings.

  15. Mamamia says:

    To Mimi: The time to trust someone else with these secrets is going to be different with each person, and each relationship. The only way to know when, in my eyes, is to keep on plugging in to our Lord every day, every moment of the day, so you keep your heart tuned in to Him…He has His own agenda for this stuff, and often I find that I want to rush in and get it started, way before the most opportune moment. And I was one of those girls who grew up being a “good girl,” not fooling around like everyone thought everyone was doing back in the seventies (yes, I am almost 50 and this still feels so raw sometimes). at some point while in college, I decided that sexual purity was something I needed to leave behind. I left my moorings and started drifting on the waves of desire. Little did I know how much it hurt to realize, you’ve hurt someone else because you were too caught up in the frenzy of your own feelings. And then you turn to say, I’m sorry, only to find they are gone, so far away and taken with them the hurt, the pain that YOU inflicted on them and you cannot make it better. I have been the prodigal daughter, and the cruel one your mother warned you to steer clear of. Neither one is beyond my Lord’s reach for healing and restoring. He brings the dead back to life, He can make you new again, and lead you to someone who can walk that path with you. But keep tuning your ear to Him, and you will find the dearest lover of all. Himself.

  16. Jenna says:

    What if I don’t have ‘a past’? What if I have never done anything majorly bad? People sometimes tell me ” If you don’t know who you were, you don’t know who you are.”
    Does that mean I should screw up my life so that I’ll have a ‘past’ to talk about?

    • Mimi says:

      Dear Jenna, please don’t feel like you need to screw up in your life just so that you have a ‘past’ to talk about! :) The fact that you haven’t done anything majorly bad is an amazing gift. HOLD ON TO IT! Fight for your purity, don’t just let it go because some people tell you it’s a bad thing that you’ve never done anything ‘major’. It’s not a bad thing at all, it’s an amazing thing.

      That being said, do remember that if in the future you were to do something that you considered majorly bad, no matter how bad it is, you can always turn to Christ. He will be right there to forgive, heal and restore you. His love is never-failing.

      Stay strong in the Lord!

    • Daniela says:

      Jenna- So much later than your post, I know. I recently listened to a portion of a message by John Piper. It’s short and he shares a very effective analogy to apply when dealing with sin/ temptation and whether, “to know the pain sin better, should I allow more sin in my life?” In fact, his analogy expresses exactly why the opposite is true when fighting temptation. https://soundcloud.com/askpastorjohn/pornography-and-resisting-the

  17. Gina says:

    I’ve been finding my way through this blog and the timing at which I found it could be called divine. I’ve been praying a lot about things along this very topic, found this blog, starting with this entry, and tonight heard the TAN song “Oh My Dear” for the first time. Thank you all, guys of TAN, and Heather and Kelley, for sharing your stories and advice.

  18. Isabella says:

    This is amazing Jeff. I love that “passed gas” part. Haha, very creative. But I really tried to take all of it in. I’m struggling with lust in my youth group, school, church… grr, it’s really hard. And annoying. Why does God do that?? Seriously, I’ve heard all the replies, like” It’s for a purpose,” and “It’s because God has a plan,” and ” God wants to talk to you,” and other stuff. But really, why does God make everything so hard to accomplish????? Pray plz.

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