Tuesday, January 24, 2017

Detachment From the Past

One of the tests to discern whether we are allowing the past to direct and determine our present lives is to notice how often we say, “I was raised...” or “When I was growing up” or “My parents....”

Now, reminiscing about grand family vacations to the Tetons or Yellowstone, or sharing with others the exhilarating excursions in Great Uncle Fred’s open cockpit biplane are not what I’m talking about.

What I’m referring to is the line of thinking we fall into in which we habitually look to the past to explain the less-than-ideal person we are today.

We often operate from a presupposition that the past defines our personality and justifies our mistakes and bad habits.

It may never have occurred to us that we can begin to think about ourselves, not, in fact, from as far back as the beginning, but from the point at which we now find ourselves.

Is the past full of “stuff,” as many people like to put it? Yes.
Is the past full of nothing but tragedy and victimization for some? Yes.

Am I belittling and discounting these events? No.

There is, depending upon the circumstances, a place to certainly get the past out there for close scrutiny in order to heal from it. And for those with seriously egregious pasts, this can take time.

But for many people with the “normal”—and by that I mean traditionally dysfunctional—childrearing that takes shape in one form or another in almost every family, once that past has been digested, there is a time to stop chewing the cud.

By placing too much importance on the past, we stall our progress forward. 

The thinking often goes like this:
The past cannot be changed.
I am a product of the past. 
Therefore I cannot change.

In this way, the past continues to be our present.

Giving up the past and our standing as victims can be as difficult as removing a pacifier from a baby. We have come to rely on the “facts” and “truth” of our increasingly distant past to let us off the hook in many areas of our present-day lives.

How often have we said things like,
“Seriously, what can you expect from someone who was raised as I was?” 
 “You’d be depressed too if you’d had the childhood I had”
 “Really, if I had had some encouragement as a kid I wouldn’t be in this lousy job”
“I never wanted to go to college but...”
“Sadly, I married my father/mother"
“Christmas was always a let-down at our house, so Bah Humbug!”
and on and on it goes.

It is remarkable that, in almost every other area of our lives, we rally for cleaner air, new laws, legislation that will free us from this or that constraint and yet, we freely allow, if not welcome, the pollution of our past to dominate our current thinking, attitudes, actions and relationships.

The fact of the matter is, we will live the greater portion of our lives outside of and free from the bygone days we grew up in. 

And even though some of those same dysfunctional people may continue to have a role in our lives, we, as mature adults, are capable of directing interactions with and setting boundaries around those people. 

We are not at the mercy of any person, place or thing, perpetual victims to what once was and still attempts to be.

Instead, we are at the mercy of our loving Father, who implores us to step out in the new life He has so graciously endowed us with because He knows we require it.

To refuse His lead is to allow the people and circumstances of our past to be our gods. It should be no surprise then that our lives will bear the sour and rotten fruit that a life lived off of the soil of yesterday produces.

copyright Barb Harwood

“Trust in the LORD with all your heart
And do not lean on your own understanding.
In all your ways acknowledge Him,
And He will make your paths straight.” Proverbs 3:5-6

“Let your eyes look directly ahead
And let your gaze be fixed straight in front of you.
Watch the path of your feet
And all your ways will be established.” Proverbs 4:25-26

“Jesus replied, ‘Very truly I tell you, no one can see the kingdom of God unless they are born again.’
‘How can someone be born when they are old?’ Nicodemus asked. ‘Surely they cannot enter a second time into their mother’s womb to be born!’
Jesus answered, ‘Very truly I tell you, no one can enter the kingdom of God unless they are born of water and the Spirit. Flesh gives birth to flesh, but the Spirit gives birth to spirit.’” John 3:3-6

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