Our lives are filled with good and bad memories. The impressions of the past live in our minds, and we can look at them over and over again. The scenes we recall are like snapshots, forever stopped in time. Still, they evoke strong feelings that have the power to influence our thinking. Ironically, most of these lifeless pictures determine who and what we are right now although they captured moments many years and places ago. Our present attitude, as well as our behavior, depends on which events we choose to relive.
Our human nature is to dwell on the negative – what we regret or what injured us. Our divine nature, on the other hand, looks forward to and focuses on what lies ahead in the kingdom. We can easily become obsessed by the former and forget about the latter, even though we know heaven should come first. That is precisely why we have so much trouble “getting on with our life” once we have been offended or wounded. We look so long at reflections that make us unhappy we cannot see what is there to make us happy.
“I can’t do it,” you might be thinking. “There is too much for me to forget and too much for me to forgive. The pain and the anger won’t go away. I am still suffering. It’s impossible for me to get over what happened.” For the most part, you are right. You can’t get over the past. You can’t put it behind, at least not on your own. But Jesus can. He can make you forget and forgive. He can give you the strength to move on without the hurt and the anxiety. He can heal the wounds completely if you let him.
It is time for us to get rid of what prevents us from being ourselves: the wonderful child that God created, not the person the world has molded. Take all of the many pictures of your life that you hold in your mind. Put them all together on the table in front of you. Look at each one carefully, and then choose the ones you want to keep and the ones you want to forget. Throw away the images not worth keeping and showing to others. What value or purpose can there be in sharing situations that remind us who we were long ago? We are not that person anymore. We have changed.
“Forget the former things,” the Lord told Isaiah. “Do not dwell on the past. See, I am doing a new thing!” You, my friend, are that “new thing!” If those around you do not recognize you today it is because they do not realize who you are now; they are seeing the old thing of years ago. They perceive only what they saw then, nothing more and nothing less. What do you think would happen, for example, if you suddenly went back to the same people who hurt you? Would they welcome you back? Probably not. They cannot forget the past because they are living in it. Why, then, would you want to keep looking at dark memories of what is done and over?
You and I are made for today, not yesterday. Our future depends on the present, and nothing is more important than what we do right now. This moment is the perfect time to start moving forward again and stop letting guilt stop us. “He whom the Son sets free, is free indeed.” There is no reason for anything (or anyone) to hold us back. No person on earth can keep us captive because we have been released from bondage. Get rid of those old pictures of you being beaten and bruised. The only one you need to keep is that of Jesus on the cross.
Copyright © Bruce Swaffield. Used by permission.