Last week I explored how we relate to the future. Now I believe it is only fair that I explore how we relate with the past. I hope to land, again, in the present.
I have a past. We all have a past. Not all of it good, but not all of it bad either. What do I do with my past? There are many things that are wonderful. We all have experiences and memories that are good to look back on. Many of those experiences have formed me into who I am today. Then there are the, well, not so wonderful experiences and memories. Many of those have also been formative in my life. Then there is the category of things better forgotten.
Isaiah said 43:18 “Remember not the former things,
nor consider the things of old.
19 Behold, I am doing a new thing;
now it springs forth, do you not perceive it?
I will make a way in the wilderness.
and rivers in the desert.”
Paul wrote in Philippians 3:13b “But one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead,”
There comes a time when we have to let go of the things in our past that are keeping us from living in the here and now, moving toward our intended purposes in life. These things need to be released from our grip.
I can try to erase the past and pretend that bad never happened. That only leads to bitterness as the untreated wound festers. I can “puff” the good so I come across better than I really am. That is classic pride, the self-protection that does not deal in truth. The wound still festers. Or, I can hand it all to Jesus and let Him sort it all out, bringing resolution and healing.
I heard Brian Simmons, the author of The Passion Translation of the Bible speak last weekend. One of the things he said, more than once, was: my past died on the cross with Jesus 2,000 years ago. At least all the guilt of it did. Yes, there are lessons to learn from my mistakes and sin. But those things become crazy making if I hang on to them when they rightfully belong to Jesus. They are no longer mine. I believe it is Graham Cooke who says God tells us he wants those things back when we try to hang on to them or continue to relive them. Jesus died on the cross for them. I have been bought with a price. Those things from our past are His and He wants them back! Why do I want them any way? They are not helping me live today.
Generally, I am pretty good about not repeating the less than brilliant things I have done in my past. My hang up lately is pretty much in my head, or is it in my heart? Putting the past behind me is not always easy. Some of what I have experienced, tries to get me to keep me “watching the reruns.” It seems to suck me in and I can go right down the rapids and underwater with my thoughts if I don’t pull myself out quickly.
About two months ago I was in one of those situations. A memory was triggered and I began to replay and relive it all over again. It was not pretty. Sometimes in the past this type of memory has turned into an asthma attack and all I could do was use my inhaler and try to find ways to calm myself down. This time, however, brought the beginnings of a different kind of response for me. This time, I could feel the pull of the memories beginning and I stopped. I said out loud with calm assurance, “Thank you God that is not my life any more!” As soon as this declaration was out of my mouth, the “cloud” lifted and I was not stressed. I was at peace. I was even joyful! Acknowledging God, trusting and thanking him in a stressful moment broke the pattern of fear and rehearsing my past.
This has worked several times since then. I believe I have victory in that type of circumstance now. But there are other ways that I am still learning to take each thought captive to Christ (2 Cor. 10:5) There are much more subtle thoughts that creep in. I am learning thankfulness, forgiving and releasing people and situations, but I am still working at releasing the “only ifs.” These pull me into the futile exercise of attempting to change the past. The “what ifs” catapult me right past the present into the future. Again, I lose sight of the present reality I can actually deal with. Questioning and over analyzing my responses in the past can send me right down those rapids too. I can lose my strength, creativity and freedom if I do not trust Jesus with my past.
Yes, I need to learn from my past! And I have learned much. I have also learned that there comes a point where I have to choose to forget the past. I do so asking Abba to gently remind me, in my moment of need, of the lessons I can put to use now, in the present. I am here to live today. This moment is where life happens. There is NOTHING I can do to change the past. My past has helped to make me the woman I am today. I am very grateful to God for all the things I have learned through the easy and the hard lessons.
My prayer is that we can all let the work of the Cross have its full effect in our lives. Forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead, I want to walk in the fullness of the freedom that Jesus came to give me…today.
What keeps replaying for you? Can you release it to Jesus?
Remember God’s promise, “Behold, I am doing a new thing!” Thank you for joining me on this journey.