May 3, 2020
Ed and I have been sorting through box after box of photos, clippings, souvenirs, and items we haven’t used in years as we prepare to move to Pennsylvania the end of next month. It is a bittersweet process, as it brings back memories of times and events that were stored away in the back of our minds, just as those boxes were stored in the back of our closets. Memories of childhood, school days, friends we haven’t seen in decades, grandparents that are now with the Lord, vacations… Some make us smile, some make us cry. Look how young we were! I remember her… we had so much fun together! Oh my… what were we thinking? I wish I could still do that. I wish I would have done more for them while they were still alive… The myriad of thoughts and emotions could fill far more boxes than those stored away treasures do. Some we cling to, and some we wish we could forever free ourselves from.
Time steadily moves on, but memories make it stand still. In one old photo from 33 years ago I still have on my ballet outfit, can still balance on the toes of one foot, have no wrinkles or missing teeth, and look as though I am on top of the world. But then I also remember that I was raising two pre-school age daughters, going through a divorce, and that would be my last year as a ballet teacher.
There are some people who tend to live in the past, somehow forgetting the struggles while remembering the good times. They would give anything to turn back the clock and be who they used to be ten, twenty, or even fifty years ago. And they will do anything in their attempt to keep things as they were back then, desperately clinging to styles, activities, and even relationships that are keeping them from all God has for them in the present.
The Pharisees in Jesus’ day were like that. They didn’t want anything or anyone to change the way they worshipped God, question the authority they held over the people, or take away the respect and honor they craved. But then Jesus came along and upset the apple cart. He offered people a direct relationship with God, did away with the necessity for temple sacrifices by becoming the final and ultimate sacrifice, and made their position obsolete. And oh, how they hated him!
Others deny their past, sweeping it under the rug, trying desperately to be someone else, anyone else other than who they were. Maybe they are filled with regrets and guilt, or perhaps memories of abuse, neglect, or failure. No matter what it is in their past that haunts their dreams, turning them in nightmares, suppressing those bad memories only causes them to feed on you from deep within those dark recesses in your mind, and reemerge even stronger, often at the worst of times.
So how do we keep from either living in the past, or trying to deny it? How do we manage to learn from it and then move on, joyfully looking towards the future while enjoying a fulfilling present?
Of course, the answer is the same answer to every question in life – Jesus! When we put our faith in Jesus he wipes all of the ‘bad’ from our past. He forgives every sin completely. Not only forgives them, but gives us this promise, “I will remember their sin no more.” (Jeremiah 31:34 and Hebrews 8:12). If God can forget them, why can’t we? Partially because people like to remind us of our past, hold it against us, punish us over and over for it. Some may even forgive, but rarely will they forget. But God doesn’t do that. He forgives AND forgets. And so thankfully the day will come for those who have been cleansed and justified through Christ, that they will enjoy an eternity free from guilt, regret, and unhappy memories.
And for those desperately clinging to a past that they think was better than their present, look to Christ! Regardless of how wonderful your past was, your present can be even better, more fulfilling, and can lead to an even brighter future if you let him guide you and direct you. You can’t put the car in reverse and expect to journey forward. Shift gears! Heed the words of Isaiah, “Forget the former things; do not dwell on the past. See, I am doing a new thing! Now it springs up; do you not perceive it? I am making a way in the wilderness and streams in the wasteland.” (Isaiah 43:18-19). So if you feel like your present is a wilderness or wasteland, God will make a way through it, refresh you, and bring you to a new and better understanding of all he has planned for you, if you are willing to trust and follow him.
So learn from your memories, treasure the good ones, let go of the bad ones, and move forward. Amen.
VIDEO: "Move (Keep Walkin')" - Toby Mac https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tzYsrAcuS0s