One day last week the first reading was taken from Genesis chapters 6 and 7. It tells of how God, seeing all the wickedness on the earth, decided to wipe it all out. But Noah found favor with God, and God has Noah build an Ark instead.
God tells Noah, “You are to bring into the ark two of all living creatures, male and female, to keep them alive with you.” (Gen. 6:19) This is a clear sign that God wants creation to continue, because he has Noah take a male and a female from every species.
As I was reflecting on this passage, it struck me that instead of wiping everything out, God takes a remnant to start over with.
Remnants are important
In the plan of God, remnants are important. What is a remnant?
One dictionary defines remnant as: “a left-over amount from a larger portion or piece, whether it is food, material from which a garment is fashioned, or even a group of people.”
God puts value on remnants or leftovers. You can see an example of this in the multiplication of the loaves and fishes. When everyone had eaten and was satisfied, Jesus had his disciples pick up all the fragments and not let anything be wasted. “Afterward the disciples picked up seven basketfuls of broken pieces that were left over.” (Mark 8:8)
Redeeming our past mistakes
To apply this to our lives, we all have made bad decisions in our past. We have hurt people, taken wrong paths, picked up bad habits, and the consequences of our choices can be very painful. Perhaps we want to wipe it all out, pretend it never happened, or try not to think about it. But when we try to bury the past, we bury our true selves along with it.
However, God makes everything new if we let him. He can take the messiest, ugliest parts of our past and turn them into something beautiful and life-giving — for others, and for ourselves.
I have a friend whose past life reads like a soap opera. She has had more than her share of hardships and heartache, including abortion, divorce and cancer. But with the help of God, and much prayer and support from friends along the way, she has made peace with her past. She gave God permission to collect all the broken pieces of her life and transform them into something beautiful.
Because of that, she is able to share her testimony and what God has done in her life. And God uses her in amazing ways to help countless wounded women and men find healing and strength to forge new lives for themselves, just like she has.
God has indeed turned her ashes into beauty, and she is a source of inspiration for those she encounters.
There is no broken fragment of our lives that God can’t bring good out of. God is the creator, and he loves to create, re-create and make everything new.
He just needs our permission to do that.