Leave the Past in the Past

We all have a past.

It’s good to remember where we’ve come from, where God has brought us from, what He has delivered us from.  I’m all for that.  He reminds me from time to time to remember, don’t forget from where I’ve come.

That’s all well and good.  This is what I take issue with and perhaps you can relate…when you run into someone and all they want to do is rehash specific events from days gone by.  That person who likes to remind you of what a fool you were when you dated so-and-so or how everyone thought you were this or that or what a great time everyone had at some camp, etc.  All the while, you’re thinking to yourself, “That’s not the way I remember things.”  And you walk away feeling all sorts of crappy.

I don’t know about you, but, my junior high years were wrought with anxiety, stomach issues and preteen girl drama.  And my high school years were full of confusion and stress.  The life of stress and isolation I experienced as an adolescent carried into my twenties and it all came crashing down around me in a divorce at 29.

Now I’m not saying that I’ve had a bad life.  Actually, quite the opposite.  I come from a loving and Godly home with great parents and extended family.  I have never lacked anything.  I was a good student. But my personality and the relationship choices I made in my life created a good deal of anxiety in my life.  So, I DO have a list of regrets and “if onlys,” just like most of you.

if-only

The Bible says, “Do not remember the former things, nor consider the things of old.”

Seriously.  I’m tired of talking about and rehashing and thinking about the “good ole’ days!”  They weren’t good!  What I have going on in my life NOW is good.  And it’s only going to get better.

The same passage of scripture continues, “Behold, I will do a new thing, NOW it shall spring forth;  shall you not know it?”

Susie’s paraphrase:  Forget about your past, stop dwelling on your regrets, shame, could haves, should haves, would haves…You can’t change the past.  Stop living with regret and shame.  It’s time to move on.  Live in the present and look toward the future with hope and excitement!  God is doing a new thing in you.  If you keep dwelling on the past, you will miss the awesome plan He has for your life NOW.

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The Bible talks about a race that we’re running.  That’s what life is.  A race.  Do you continually look backwards when you are running a race?  You can try, but you’re probably going to lose your balance or trip over an obstacle in the way and fall flat on your face.  We are to keep our eyes straight ahead, look towards where we are going.

Hebrew 11:12-13 says, “Therefore we also, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which so easily ensnares us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking unto Jesus, the author and finisher of our  faith, who for the joy that was set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.”runtherace

And my favorite verse about this race we’re in…

I Corinthians 1:24 “Do you not know that those who run in a race all run, but one receives the prize? Run in such a way that you may obtain it.”

You can’t drive a car by looking in the rear view mirror all the time without crashing.  There’s a reason why the rear view mirror is so small and the windshield is so large.  Keeping your eyes on the road ahead is vital to the journey you’re on.  You have to glance at the rear view mirror periodically to make sure nothing behind you is going to rear end you, it’s true.  But, the most important view is right in front of you.rearview mirror

Looking in your rear view mirror or dwelling on your past continually will entrap you in depression, shame, regret, insecurity and a host of other emotional “crashes.”  Who wants to live like that?  Not me.

Counseling to overcome past hurts, betrayals, abuse and other circumstances is very important for your emotional and mental health.  I cannot adequately describe what counseling has done for me. It’s good to know where you’ve come from, why you are like you are, and how your past has shaped you into the person you are now.  BUT, once you’ve done that, it’s time to move on.  Don’t dwell on and live in the past.

Look up, look ahead!  God is doing a NEW thing in your life!

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Forgiving When It’s Hardest

“I can never forgive him.  NEVER!”  Words shouted to God, an oath sworn in the deepest recesses of my heart.  How could I forgive someone who destroyed my dreams, ruined my plans, stole my life, obliterated my self-worth?  How could I forgive someone who chose his addiction over his wife, his babies?  How could I forgive him from walking away from us?

I was repeatedly told, “Forgive.”  I tried. I really, really tried.  I said it to my friends.  I said it to my family.  I forgive him.  I even said it to him.  I forgive you.  Inside though, I was still nursing my wounds, trying to resuscitate my damaged heart.  I couldn’t let go.

If I forgive him, I’ll be letting him off the hook.

If I forgive him, it’s like I’m saying what he did was no big deal.

If I forgive him, I’m condoning his behavior.

I can’t just forgive and forget!

Unforgiveness poisoned my life.  With my new husband, simple disagreements morphed into manic rages.  Confusion engulfed my mind.  Guilt dictated my relationship with my children.  Anxiety and regret ruled supreme in my heart.  More times than not, face-to-face encounters with the ex rivaled episodes of “Jerry Springer.”  So.much.anger.  Somewhere deep in my mind, I foolishly thought that I was making him pay for the years of pain he caused me.  No one else seemed to be holding him responsible, so I would!

My children were hurting and confused.  “Why’s Daddy so mad at you?  Why does Daddy yell at you?  Why are you crying again, Mommy?”  I pacified my sweet babes with vague explanations.  So little, so innocent.  An understanding came to me.  My bitterness was hurting my children.  They needed permission to love their daddy without hurting their mommy.  I decided, I will forgive him and get past these feelings that were controlling me.  For my children and for them alone.

I prayed.  I read the Bible.  I sought wise counsel.  I continually spoke forgiveness aloud.  I forgive him.  I forgive him.  When I felt like screaming, I kept silent.  When I longed to bring up past sins, I held my tongue.  When I felt anxious for the safety of my children, I hid in the arms of my Savior through prayer and meditation on His Word.  I spoke kindness to my children about their father.  I replaced my negative internal dialogue with God’s opinion of me.  Self-pity turned into sympathy.  Self-loathing became self-loving.  Loving myself made me love others.  Seeing myself as God sees me helped me to see others as God sees them…even my ex-husband.

Through this process, I noticed my children were relaxing.  I could almost see the stress and anxiety leave their little bodies.  A load was lifted.  It was working!

But wait!  I began to feel less stressed.  Less anxious.  Less hostile.  The aching in my chest isn’t there anymore. When I think about my failed marriage and the events which caused it, I no longer feel anger. Or bitterness.  Or shame.  Or regret. What happened???   Is this what it feels like to be happy?  To be joyful?  To be at peace with myself?

I FORGIVE HIM!!!  I really, really do!  This victim became a victor!!!

At long last, joy and peace are mine!

Forgiveness is not FOR the person who has wronged you.  Forgiveness is for YOU!  Release them and release yourself.

Forgiveness is not forgetting.  My mind will not allow me to forget.  But now, when I remember, the pain is gone.

Forgiveness is freedom from the chains of anger, hatred and bitterness that steal joy and peace in your life.

Forgiveness does not always happen quickly.  It took me literally YEARS to get to the place I am today.  Be patient and consistent.

Forgive and be free!

And don’t forget what Jesus said Himself, “For if you forgive men their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you.  But if you do not forgive men their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses.”  Matthew 6:14-15

Before you go, watch this video.  The words to this song were healing balm to my soul.

 

Demise of a Rosebush

Some time ago, I had a rosebush in the flower garden outside of my living room window.  This rosebush had long branches, like tentacles of an octopus, reaching out and jagging whomever walked by and required constant care and upkeep to keep it under control.  On several occasions, I neglected to give the bush the proper care that it needed. The branches would sometimes spread out 6-10 feet, completely invading the flower garden.  The bush demanded weekly, if not daily care to maintain its beauty.  Caring for the bush was an arduous task, but when it was in full bloom, it was a spectacular sight.  Hundreds of pale pink, fluffy, velvety roses dripped from the branches of the bush.

Weeding around the bush was quite a chore.  Pulling weeds that grew amongst the rosebush was painstaking because of the inch long thorns that jagged me with every yank.  And I REALLY do not like weeding.  I’ll take any other yardwork (mowing, digging, raking, cutting down stuff with a chainsaw, you name it), but weeding.  So, when I get around to it, I do it as quickly as possible and probably not as thoroughly as I should.  But alas, weeding is vital to the health of the flower garden. If weeds are left to grow, they will literally choke the life out of other plants.  Weeding is a necessary evil.

On one particular day, I went outside to do a check up on my flowers.  A week or two had gone by since I had weeded and my once-blooming flower garden was looking ragged and forlorn.  I began weeding and weeding and weeding…and weeding.  When I finally reached the rosebush, my hands were sore, my back was killing me and the sun was scorching a hole through my shirt.  I noticed there was a rather large weed growing right up the center of the bush.  Reluctantly and carefully, I reached my hand in to pull the weed out.  I gave it a pull, oh so carefully, so as not to get punctured by the bush’s daggers.  It would not budge.  Rather than risking the skin on my hand and arm, I just left it.  I was tired of weeding and couldn’t tolerate any more that day.  Enough was enough!

More weeks went by.  The rosebush had grown out of control and the weed in the center had grown larger. I gave it a yank using both hands this time, really putting my back into it.  Fail.  I could not get it out, no matter how hard I pulled, no matter how much I twisted it, no matter what angle I came at it from.  Once again, I abandoned my efforts.  Susie-0, monstrous weed-2.  Complete defeat.

Autumn came, the roses stopped blooming.  I cut the bush back like you’re supposed to do each fall.  I cut the weed back too.  By this point, it was no longer a weed, but more like a sapling.  I wish I had caught it sooner!  I just left it there, growing among my beautiful rosebush.  “Maybe it will die during winter,” I thought to myself.

Spring arrived.  It took me several weeks to attend to my garden.  When I finally got to it, the weed that had been a sapling was now 10 feet tall and had a bona fide trunk.  A tree was now growing straight up from my rosebush!  How on earth could this happen?  I waved the white flag.

I figured it was time to call in the big guns, aka the hubby.  He tried extracting the “tree” from my bush with a shovel and saw.  He could not.  Being a man, he decided the best course of action was to bring in a piece of heavy equipment.  More power, right?  Argh, argh, argh.  He pulled the John Deere tractor up to the bush, wrapped a chain (!) around the trunk of that overgrown weed and pulled.  And do you know what happened?  Not only did the weed come out, but so did my rosebush.  The roots of the weed had become entwined with the roots of the rosebush.  When he pulled the weed, the rosebush came out too!  My beautiful rosebush was destroyed!  All that was left was a gaping hole in the ground and a very tiny remnant of the root.

If I had only been more diligent about consistently weeding my garden, this would not have happened.  But because I was lazy, because weeding is hard, because weeding is not fun, because I had better things to do with my time, my rosebush was nearly completely destroyed.

The human heart (soul) is like that rosebush.  It is wild and untamed in its natural state.  But it flourishes and blooms when it is daily watered, fed and weeded.

What is water to our soul?  The spirit of God.  It is like rivers of living water.

How do we feed our hearts?  By putting good things into our minds and hiding the Word of God in our hearts. And through praise and worship.

How do we weed our hearts, clean out the soil of our soul?  By asking God to reveal the weeds to us and remove them from our hearts.  We can ask God to search our hearts and our souls.

Weeds growing in the heart can be things like bitterness, hatred, regret, envy, or anger.  If we do not remove these unwelcome assassins when they are small, they will take root in our hearts.  Once they take root, they are difficult to remove.  And once they take root and began to grow, extracting them will be equivalent to spiritual open-heart surgery.  Weeds must be removed or complete destruction WILL occur.

Guard your heart.  Don’t be easily offended.  Forgive others when they wrong you.  Let things go.  Be grateful for the things or the life YOU have.  Stop looking in the past and wishing you could go back and change things.  Don’t harbor ill feelings towards other people.  Give people the benefit of the doubt.  Call in reinforcements (pastor, friend, counselor) if you need help clearing the weeds.

The heart that God has placed in you is precious.  Give it daily love and attention.  You have a choice.  Encourage your rosebush to grow and flourish or allow the weeds to take over and choke the life out of you.

The weeds in my heart almost choked the life out of me.  Regret, bitterness, anger, shame, and hatred are just a few of the weeds that tried to cause destruction to my soul.  But through God’s mercy and grace, I was not consumed by them.  The process of extraction was painful, tedious and a WHOLE lot of work.  I now water, feed and weed my soul daily.

Daily diligence wards off devastating destruction.

 

Psalm 51:10

“Create in me a clean heart, O God, And renew a steadfast spirit within me.”