My first attempts at getting a job in Atlanta were a parade of colorful failures. I sent out dozens of resumes with no response. I flew from Boston one day for the sole purpose of meeting with an executive who ultimately refused to even accept my resume. He wouldn’t take it from me. He literally shot blocked me at breakfast.
And then something incredibly awkward happened.
While living in Massachusetts I would occasionally come down to Atlanta to talk with companies. One afternoon I did that with an ad agency called “Match.” They were super talented and located in a refurbished old building. (In the early 2000s, you were required by law to have exposed brick in your advertising company.)
After talking with my contact, I was taken on a tour and met a guy named Ted. He was a guru. He wasn’t on staff, he was just brought on to deliver ridiculously creative ideas. He taught at one of the local advertising schools and asked to see my portfolio.
That thing was a beast. It took days if not weeks to create and manicure and edit. So I gave it to him and he kind of frowned a little on the inside. It wasn’t a very good portfolio. It was unlikely to win me any jobs in Atlanta but I had killed myself to create it. Ted was concerned, but very generous with his time. He shared some wisdom over an hour and then had an idea.
“Here,” he said, “this is a box of all the really brilliant portfolios we’ve received from job candidates. I want you to sit and go through these to understand how they are different from you.” Then he sat me at someone’s empty desk in the middle of a busy office and I started reviewing the other portfolios.
I felt like such a loser in that moment. Employees kept walking by me and wondering, “Who is this kid?” I was wearing my fanciest clothes and sweating bullets and flipping through page after page of people who were better than me. I had a box full of real writers in front of me and I was a phony. I was a fake. I was never going to be as good as any of them.
I spent an hour doing that. Then I gave the box to the admin. She shoved it under her desk. If the real writers were just a box under a desk, what was I ever going to be? And then I left.
Sometimes, I feel like I’m not a “real Christian” in the same way I felt like I wasn’t a “real writer.” I bump into people who have big, vibrant, 3D faith and mine feels very monotone and vanilla. There’s something about them, something tangible but just out of reach that I can’t express. And my faith feels small and shallow and fake.
In those moments, I want to fix the portfolio of my faith. I want to travel back in time and fix the almost two decades I mortgaged to porn. I want to erase the drug use and the rampant cockiness and fix all the feelings and people I stepped all over.
Have you ever felt like that? In the midst of regret or feeling fake, have you ever wished you could fix things? Do you ever wonder, “what if I hadn’t gotten that divorce?” or “What if I hadn’t taken that job or done that thing, that wrecked all the other things?”
I have, but I realized something recently that is challenging me.
I think satan wants us to think our past is fixable. God wants us to know our past is forgivable.
There’s a world of difference between those two words, fixable and forgivable. One is about human effort and sweat and heartache and staying in the mud. One is about grace and mercy and white snow and sacrifice we can’t imagine.
I don’t know if you’re someone sitting with what feels like a box full of “real Christians” in front of you. Maybe you’ve never struggled with the dynamic of fixable vs. forgivable. The truth is that God can fix anything he wants, but we as small humans can’t go back and fix things perfectly.
But there is something I am starting to believe about our pasts. It’s something I saw in Psalm 103:12. It’s a pretty well known verse. It says, “as far as the east is from the west, so far has he removed our transgressions from us.”
Have you ever thought about why God did that? Why the distance? Why so far away? I think God put our transgressions so far away because he knew if they were close we would be tempted to “fix them.” We would tinker with our pasts. We’d get lost in fixable and forget the truth of forgivable.
They’re far away. They’re separated for a reason. And you can’t fix them. You can apologize and should own the consequences and take responsibility, but the road to sanctification and peace is never paved with the fixed. It’s paved with the forgiven.
You? Me? The fix is in.