While the past should never be used to define who we currently are or the person God will transform us into in the future, it’s still always there. What we choose to do with the past is up to us. Regardless of who we are, where we live, or how we make a living, there is a part of us which can never be changed. The past is exactly that. Nothing more and nothing less.
Some of us have made mistakes in the past we would give anything in the world to take back. Many of us have been the victim of someone else’s mistakes, scarring us permanently as a victim. While your past may not look anything like mine at all, I’m sure if you are honest enough with yourself, there’s something there you wish you could take away.
There are several ways we choose to go about dealing with the past.
Some of us learn how to push pain so far in the back of our mind we forget it ever existed. That is, until we face a similar situation. Then all of the feelings and emotions take over again, making the pain even more excruciating than we originally felt.
Many of us deal with the past by running as far away from it as we can. We create new lives for ourselves in a different city or state. We share the past with others we wish we had, keeping them as far away from the truth as possible. This was how I chose to deal with life. I moved as far away as I could, as many times as I needed to, until I could learn how to be comfortable with the fake me I wanted others to know. The person I imagined others would be able to like and love.
Running from the mess I had made.
I can’t pinpoint a specific event from the past I was running from. In my situation, I was trying to hide from the person I had become. I wish I could tell you I found Jesus and everything was better. That simply wasn’t the case. Finding Jesus made the past hurt even more because I allowed myself to believe Jesus had never encountered the person I was desperately trying to run from.
Every now and then, when I wasn’t on my A game, I would start to slip and signs of the person I used to be would show up in my life. This would bring on a fear more intense than I had ever experienced before. Not only was there a risk my new friends and the people in my life would get a glimpse of the Jeffrey I used to be, Jesus was going to see me for who I really was. Someone with a horrible anger issue. A dad who deserted two amazing children who are now on the doorstep of adulthood. An alcoholic who was too afraid to live life without drinking.
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This fear of the old me creeping back into the picture caused me to move from Indiana to Florida and then back and forth between Florida and Texas. From the fall of 2013 until early 2017, I moved from Jacksonville to southeast Texas every six months. I had several reasons for moving, including I was making an attempt to grow closer to God. Looking back, I think each move was caused by a part of my past I hadn’t yet learned how to address and deal with. I was still allowing the past to determine who I was going to be tomorrow.
Nowhere left to run.
In February of 2017, I left Florida for the last time. I’ve been told by those closest to me I’ve experienced more growth in the previous 12 months than the four previous years combined. I wish I could tell you there’s a specific prayer I prayed or a verse in the Bible that finally made sense to me. If I had to choose just one, maybe it would be Exodus 4:17.
“Take in your hand this staff, with which you shall perform the signs.”
You see, Moses was carrying his staff for a reason. His past had led him to a life of tending his father in law’s flock. Yes, because of God’s sovereignty and plan, Moses grew up and enjoyed a childhood of royalty in Egypt. He also made a decision to kill a man, forcing him to flee the comfortable life he’d grown accustomed to.
He went from living in a palace to fleeing from the incident in the wilderness. The staff he used to tend the flock represented the past, the action that led to him fleeing for safety. This staff was all he had to reflect on what life once was and everything that could have been. It’s the same piece of wood God told Moses to use for leading and inspiring His people.
How can your past best serve God?
Each of us has a past of our own. We can force our mind’s to forget about it. We can do everything in our power to run as far away from it as possible. However, when we finally arrive at the place where we want God to use us to inspire others, the thing we have been running from the most is often what God will want us to use to make a difference in someone’s life. More often than not, we are the ones who are finally able to experience the biggest change.