Negotiating our Past

We all have a past and with it, a good question to ask is: ‘What is my relationship with my past? Am I free of it or am I bound by it’? Few of us would deny that we have been formed by our past, but does it still control us or does it liberate us? We may try to forget or deny our past, but it will always be with us – for it is the uniquely personal foundation on which we each stand.

We may seek to blur the effect of our past by simply going with our need for comfort and doing things as we’ve always done them. Choosing the less adventurous route to avoid the unfamiliar or unknown is to be dead in the repeated patterns we have always preferred. Since what suits us only dulls down our precious God-given gift of choice, we may easily waste it on small, safe ideas of life. So instead of giving real flavour and joy to the lives of others, fears from our past keep us inconspicuous and ineffective as the ‘light of our world’.

Much current psychology asserts that we are formed and driven by our past and cannot escape it. The best we can hope for is to accommodate ourselves to it. The therapy seeks to explore the options we have, given an immovable past.

Jesus presents us with a different scenario. When asked was it his sin or his parent’s sin that resulted in a man’s blindness, he answered, ‘No one’s sin (past) caused it. This happened so that the work of God might be displayed in his life.’ John 9:2. The fatalistic view of being a prisoner of our past was replaced with a momentous possibility, one where God uses it as a lens through which we see Him at work in our lives. Far from being a prison, it is a layered story giving foundation and substance to our lives. Though we cannot change our past, we can CHOOSE to let it inform and empower how we live rather than debilitate us.

Jesus is always stretching us to take risks in our areas of discomfort as in ‘love your enemy.’ We often avoid the passages where He challenges us, but He is serious when He tells us to ‘leave everything’ and live as he did. Are we prepared to change how we choose to engage with life and hold things lightly so we can move freely at His bidding?

When we look back on our lives, we will see that even though there were ups and downs, we will be glad that we chose to take risks. We became fully alive as we dared to do things differently. None of us want to simply wind down into meaningless repetition of past choices and be like ‘salt that’s lost its’ flavour’. Let us keep flavouring life all our days, bringing joy in the lives we have an impact on.

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