Our children were eight and ten when I told them about my past.
My sin-filled, gin-soaked, seriously-bad-girl past.
The soft April light warmed our sunporch that Saturday afternoon as the kids and I sat together, their little knees pressed against mine. I knew if I reached for their hands, they’d worry—uh-oh, Mom is up to something BIG here—so I simply made sure I had their full attention.
“You know I’m speaking at church tomorrow, right? For Easter?”
Two heads bobbed up and down. Pink-cheeked, blue-eyed, wavy-haired Lillian. Her older brother, Matthew, with his sweet, round head and earnest expression. So innocent, so trusting.
I tried to smile, but failed miserably. Tried to start over, but the words wouldn’t come.
The thing is, I’d shared my testimony for years. Churches, youth rallies, women’s groups. But confessing those same facts with my children sitting in the front pew, looking up at their mother—their mother—while she said words like “pot” and “speed” and “cocaine,” suddenly felt like a really bad idea.
That’s why I had to prepare them. Had to.
But the words I’d chosen seemed lame, inadequate. How could I help them understand my wild and foolish past? A litany of sins committed and forgiven, long before I met and married the grace-giving man who fathered them.
I was also nervous about what they would think of me. (I know, I know. How selfish is that? Truth, though.) Would they still respect me? still trust me? still obey me? still love me?
More to the point, would they still love Jesus?
I looked at each of them in turn, then silently begged for the right words.
“Tomorrow morning,” I began, “I’ll share some of my story as part of the service. It’s just five minutes. But I want you to hear what I’m going to say first. Okay?”
Matthew frowned. “Is it something bad?”
“Sort of.” I swallowed. “You see, before I met Jesus…” My voice trailed off. How could I possibly say this? “Before I met Jesus, my life was…my life was…”
Nothing came out, my throat was so tight. Please, Lord. Help me.
Then Lillian said in a small voice, “Sad.”
Yes. I sank deeper into the couch. Relieved. Overwhelmed. “That’s right. My life was sad. Very sad. But not anymore.”
Slowly I began to unwrap my story, sharing only a few necessary details, mindful of their tender ages. “It’s the end of the story that matters, not the beginning,” I assured them. “Because of Easter, because of Jesus, we’re forgiven and made new. Isn’t that amazing?”
Yes, they agreed. Amazing.
I’m grateful to report they still love me. Better still, they love God. They also avoided following in their mother’s footsteps when they became teenagers—my greatest fear of all. Instead, they told their friends, “Oh, my mom did all that stuff ages ago. Whatever.”
I’d blown the cool factor. Perfect.
If our stories are similar, and if you’re wondering how much of your past to share with your children, here’s my take, for what it’s worth. Be gentle. Be honest. And be brave.
Make it all about helping them. And all about honoring God.
Maybe 2 Corinthians 5:17, the first verse I memorized, might serve as a starting place. “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come: The old has gone, the new is here!”
This Easter and always, celebrate all things new, beloved. Including you.