10/25/17 – Pastor Brian’s Blog
Judy and I are working on our 45th year of marriage. When you have been married as long as we have and have moved as many times as we have, you tend to put things into boxes. When we packed those boxes, we had every intention of opening those boxes again and utilizing those contents or at least wait for the right moment to open the boxes and put those important items to good use.
This past week we were trying to clean out the parsonage and part of the clean out process required us to go through boxes. Boxes that have been sealed many years and some boxes, sealed many moves ago! Contents that we have lived without, and in many cases, forgot that we even had. So, when we opened some boxes, it was a quick decision: toss it! Other boxes… well, that decision was not quite so quick to make.
When we got to the boxes of cards that the kids had made for us when they were little, or a dress Judy made for one of the girls, or Heather’s wedding dress, or a trophy that one of the boys won in sports, or Heidi’s report card, or a note from Doria, it took a while to think about what to do and often Judy and I would have to talk about it.
But the boxes that took the longest to go through were the boxes (and boxes and boxes) of family pictures. I would look at these pictures and it would take me right back to that moment. Some pictures would bring a smile or even a belly laugh as Judy and I would talk about them. Other pictures would make me cry with joy; others would bring waves of regret wishing that I had done things differently.
Some pictures would remind me of how much our children have grown and how old I had become!! As I would work my way through these pictures, I would sense a tug on my heart wishing that I was back there, living in that home, attending that event, interacting with that child, beaming with pride for that accomplishment, just going back to what it used to be.
I find many Christians and non-Christians struggling with the same thing. Instead of living their life today, they live in their past, they allow their past to control them and because of that they become paralyzed. And because they are paralyzed, whether it is consciously or unconsciously, it eliminates the chance of moving forward. Instead of living each day as a new day, they live each day weighted down with their past.
If you are living your life like this, then you need to consider closing that chapter of your life, and allow God to begin a new chapter for you. Obviously, the consequences for our poor and ungodly choices are sometimes hard to overcome, but God will not begin a new chapter for us if we refuse to end the old one.
Too often we want God to change our circumstances, change our struggles; we just don’t want Him to change us. And because we do not allow God to change us, we become spiritually stuck, just repeating the same things, hoping and praying that God will give us different results. But that will never take us to the place that God desires for us to go next.
Paul writes to the church in Philippi… Brothers, I do not consider myself yet to have taken hold of it. But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus. Philippians 3:13-14
Paul says I need to forget. Although we can see God’s hand in our past, God does not live in our past. Of course, we are to learn from our past, but God never wants us to remain in our past. God wants to work in us and through us today, right now! Yet if we refuse to let go of the past, we will miss out of God’s very best for us.
Paul also said to press on. We need to stop regretting the past, stop thinking “what if” and lean into God’s grace and press on, move forward. Instead of beating yourself up, allow God to heal you. For the mistakes you made, do your best to make things right, for the mistakes that people made against you, walk in forgiveness and allow God to use that painful and deep hurt for your good.
The past is the past, it will be with you forever, but instead of living there, give it to God, allow Him to help you close that chapter so that He can start writing a new one for you. If you do that, you will see that the very things Satan wanted to use for your harm, God will turn around and use it for your good. God will reclaim your life and turn you into one of His trophies!
Going through those boxes, brought me joy, laughter, pride, enjoyment, regret, tears, self-condemnation and various other thoughts and emotions. I found my heart and mind going there, but I could not stay there because Judy was in the other room telling me that she had more for me to do. And so, does God!