Have you heard that before? Maybe you heard something like this: “Don’t look back at your past, you’re not going that way” or “You can’t have a brighter future if you keep living in the past.”
That’s not just an inspirational thought some dude had to use in motivational speeches. It’s biblical. Isaiah wrote this jewel that God said to Jacob, the father of the nation of Israel:
Remember not the former things,
nor consider the things of old.
Behold, I am doing a new thing;
now it springs forth, do you not perceive it?
~Isaiah 43:18-19 ESV
I’m thinking about this because of a young friend I have. He’s been “around” our family for years now, since he was in grade school. He’s in his 20’s now and doing pretty good with a steady job. He lives in the next town over, and he works full time, so he’s not here often. Not nearly as much as he used to be, but occasionally, he’ll send me a message that often begins with Hey mama. That’s what he calls me. I love that he can feel that I’m here for him whenever. I have fretted about and prayed over this boy for years. Sometimes he gets way off track and worries me to death, but all I can do is pray. And the Lord has pulled him back every time. If I was actually his mom, I’d be a lot more proactive in trying to help him. But with the distance and of course, his own family, it’s hard for me to do that…but I often wish I could really “mother” him, ya know?
I have this whole don’t-let-your-past-dictate-your-future thing on my mind because as best I can tell, my boy really has an issue with this. I’ve known it for years. He seems to feel he doesn’t measure up. Even though he’s made a profession of faith and at one time was very faithful to be in church, he’s long since fallen away from that. When things get really hairy in his life, that seems to be when he remembers that and I’ll get that inevitable hey mama message from him.
He’s a very closed individual, too, which makes it even harder to help him. He often won’t tell me exactly what’s going on or he won’t tell me the whole story. I have to guess or assume and just pray the best I know how. He knows I will be here and I think he knows I’m not going to scold him or whatever. I don’t understand why he won’t open up to me other than he just finds it extremely hard.
I can understand that, actually. I used to be that way. Now, most of the time, I feel as if I over-share. Ha. Or as if I have entrusted the wrong person with my very private, inner struggles. Actually, I’m quite certain I’ve done that on more occasions that I care to think about, but once it’s done, you can’t undo it, so I try not to fret about that.
I’ve come to understand the value of unloading stuff by talking it out. I’ve had professional folk to do that with a couple times, but end up feeling as if I’m wasting my money after awhile. I mean, there’s only so much they can do unless you have like, major traumas that you’ve buried or something. As a kid, I used to write. I had NO close friends and no family that I could share with, so I wrote all that was on my heart. I didn’t really know how to pray and unload all that stuff and somehow, it helped to transfer it from my head to paper. At one time, I had several notebooks full of my thoughts. Like a diary, but not very chronological. Once my mother found them, and read them, when I was in high school, I stopped doing that completely and promptly burned all the notebooks I had. For too many years after that, I had no real outlet for my feelings. It’s just not good for a person to keep all those things bottled up inside, just as it’s not good to continuously talk about them if there is no positive feedback or forward-moving results.
And so, that’s where I am with my boy. He’s worried about a health issue now and beginning to see that he hasn’t been really leading the best life he could or the kind of life he knows that he should. But he insists on keeping everything close to the vest and won’t let anyone in completely. It’s just frustrating to know someone needs to confide but just can’t bring themselves to do it. *sigh*
If we hold onto the past, we are essentially building tall walls around ourselves. We limit where we can go and what we can do within the confines of our past selves, our past way of life.
I know a lot of people, most are good friends, who were addicts in the past. They do such a great work in sharing their testimony with others so they can see there is hope for change. That they can break the chains of the addiction and become the person they want to be. So these people do talk about their pasts. Often, actually! But they merely relate them so others can see how far they’ve come.
I guess that’s the difference between ‘living in the past’ and ‘growing out of it’. In most cases, you would be hard-pressed to pick these people out as former addicts. They neither look nor act anything at all like they did in their pasts. It’s as if they are talking about another person entirely instead of themselves. You look at them, healthy and happy and working for the good of others and think, “How could you be the same person you are describing to me?!” But they are. And that’s the power of recovery, especially recovery that comes through Jesus. A recovery that comes through finding a true relationship with Christ heals more than your addictions. It heals your mind and your spirit as well. It’s a more complete healing instead of just taking away your drug or alcohol abuse.
All this rambling and pondering to say this to anyone who might be struggling to leave the past behind them…it is a biblical principle! I’ll leave you with a few more examples:
Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come.
~2 Corinthians 5:17
He has delivered us from the domain of darkness and transferred us to the kingdom of his beloved Son, in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins.
…But one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead, I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.
How do you let go of the past? How do you help others to let go? What is your best advice for someone who struggles to let go or who is helping someone who can’t let go?