This is my 350th devotional. Under each devotional there is a comment section. Sometimes people write something that expresses appreciation for the blog that day. Perhaps it resonates with something they are going through. Maybe it just gives them a fresh perspective on a topic. But recently this was left in the comments...
"I am hoping to be better-different but i feel as though all my past is insurmountable. Too much failure & too much brokenness that is dragging me down. I don't know how to get past all that. A friend showed me your blogs about 2 weeks ago. I like your writing, just having a hard time getting what you write into the thought patterns in my head."
I don't know this person. But I do know what they are talking about. And you probably do as well. Our past is interesting. It is the only thing about which we can speak of with certainty. It is history. It has happened. It is not a mystery. It is established. We know the past in a way that we don't know the future. This doesn't mean that we can perfectly recall the past, but since the past has already happened, it is more defined than the future... at least to us.
The past is fixed, even if it can't be fixed. In other words, the past is what it is. It cannot be changed. It is fixed in its place. There is no going back to rearrange it. Once a glass has been broken, it cannot be unbroken. We do try to change the past. This is called lying. A lie is a changing of what has happened. A child knocks a vase off of the shelf while playing ball in the house. The mother comes in. The child is standing next to the ball, which is lying next to the shattered pieces of the vase. She asks him what happened. He says the neighbor's cat ran through the room and knocked the vase off of the wall. He is only 4 years old, but he is trying to change the past with a story because he can't change the past with his actions.
Since the past cannot be changed, it can become a monster in our lives. And part of the effects of being in a fallen world is that we forget what we want to remember and we remember what we want to forget. My memory toys with me in regard to some of my favorite experiences, but it tortures me with some of my worst moments. I'm more likely to be kept awake at night because of regret than because of delight. The past is a hostage-taker. We just can't fix it, because it is fixed. I can't make 2+2 equal 73, no matter how hard I try. It is easier to get perfume back into a bottle than take back from the air a word said in anger or a deed done without care.
The enemy knows that regret for our past is one of the best ways to keep us from contentment in our now, and success in our future. The BIble tells us that all have sinned, falling short of what God expects (Romans 3:23). It also tells us that the reward for sin is death (Romans 6:23). That truth combo is pretty depressing. And if that is where the story ended, then we would have no hope.
When talking about the past I draw this picture...
Life is made of choices. Choices have consequences. But Satan tries to hide or manipulate our view of the consequences. We come to a choice. It is a bad choice. We can see that there is a body of water that will separate us from where we are. But it looks like a ditch. We think we can choose to do the wrong thing, and then quickly jump back to where we were before we made the wrong choice. So we jump. Then when we are on the other side, we look back to find that the ditch has become a wide raging river. This is all an illusion. The choice to sin was never a narrow ditch. Sin is no small thing. It was just made to look so by the one who wanted to separate us from our God. Sin is always bigger than it looks on the front end. Redemption always looks less likely on the back end of a bad choice. For the one who experiences regret for the bad choice, sin looks like it is uncrossable. Now that Satan has tricked you into thinking you could easily go back and forth, he has turned the glass to make your choice seem unredeemable... to make you seem unredeemable.
A ditch looks huge to an insect. But a raging river looks like a thread to an astronaut circling the planet. Our perspective is based on our brokenness. We cannot cross the chasm of sin, no matter how narrow. God's perspective is based on reconciliation. He can close the gap created by bad choices, no matter how wide. That's what He does.
But part of moving forward is leaving the past. I've come to believe that most of the time regret holds us back because in some way we are still practicing the things that caused the break in our relationship. Repentance is the gateway to restoration. The quicksand of regret only holds those who remain in the area. While you cannot change your past, you can learn from it and move to a new, fresh future. God doesn't change our past. He just forgives it and redeems us, setting our feet on a new path. We simply have to walk forward. And as we do, the hold of sin is broken, and our failures become part of our testimony of deliverance. Our mess becomes a message. How do we do this? Well, the apostle Paul talked about the relationship between our past and our future. Whether your are bound by a pathetic past, or a healthy history, you can't live there. Your past is not your future unless you stay there.
I make every effort to take hold of [the goal] because I also have been taken hold of by Christ Jesus. Brothers, I do not consider myself to have taken hold of it. But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and reaching forward to what is ahead, I pursue as my goal the prize promised by God’s heavenly call in Christ Jesus. (Philippians 3:12-14)
Moving on from the past requires leaving and looking. It is one thing that is two things. Your car mirror is important. But it isn't the primary tool for driving. In fact, if you spend too much time looking behind you, I can guarantee that you will wreck. We have to give God our past. It isn't something we can successfully change, but it is something He can successfully cover.
Today you will have the choice to surrender to your past and be trashed by it, or surrender to Christ and be transformed by Him. The past isn't gone, but it can be put in its place. This can only happen when we allow Christ to rule in His place. And He is the same yesterday, today, and forever.
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My name is David, and I want to know God more, and help other people find Him.