I’ve got a problem. I live in the past too much.
There’s nothing wrong with turning around and looking back. It’s like using the rearview mirror when you’re driving. You need to look back to see what’s going on for safety reasons, just like it’s important to look back at your past to learn from your mistakes, to protect yourself from making the same blunders.
But what if you’re actually staring back, your eyes fixed or glued on all you’ve done wrong and you keep reliving your mistakes over and over again? It can be just as detrimental as driving while fixating on the view behind you. You’d miss your turn, swerve into a ditch, or possibly rear-end the vehicle ahead of you. Having your eyes glued to the rearview mirror is like living in the past. It’s a dangerous way to live.
Are you reliving some of your relationships from your past, how great they were and how things have drifted so far? But the sad truth is those people you remember so fondly don’t even know who you are anymore. And really, you don’t know them either. The whole thing can leave your heart aching for the past or harden it because the drifting has made you angry and you refuse to let something like that happen again.
Eventually, you start to drive faster to escape it all but you still keep looking back and you miss what’s right there in front of you, some wonderful blessing God has for you.
I went to God with all of this. Like I said, I’ve got a problem with living in the past. I remember things, people, and I ache for the way things used to be sometimes. Do you know what God told me? Look for Me back there.
Really? Why didn’t I think of that? I started looking back specifically to search for God. And He was there. He was there when I was so depressed during junior high school, when I would sit on the top of this huge hill in our back yard and cry. He had His arm around me.
He was there when I went off to college and thought drinking was a huge part of being there. He was there protecting me, leading me back to my dorm room every time.
He was there when I was smiling at graduation, the sun skimming the top of the building and landing on my face. His hands were warm on my cheeks as He kissed me on the forehead, only I didn’t know it was Him at that moment. But I know now.
God was there when I met my husband, making my heart swell, and He was there in the hospital room when our daughter was born and she cried, strong and loud. And again, He was with me in a hospital room years later when my Mom had a massive stroke, and again when my Dad had complications after quadruple bypass. He held me tighter than ever on those days, listening to my prayers, my tears, as I begged Him to help them. And He did. And He held me so gently, warmly when I stood at my Grandpa’s funeral in December years ago, and again in the warmer Missouri air at my Grandma’s gravesite in April.
So all the moments in my past when I really needed someone, God was there. And yet, I see Him there by my side the countless times I’ve washed dishes or folded laundry, when I got up in the middle of the night all those times to give our daughter medicine, and every morning when I fixed coffee. He’s always there when I look back, at every memory.
But I can’t live back there because the bad finds a way of mixing in with the good, and that’s where the pain can take hold and sprout into something ugly and harmful. It’s time to take hold of those memories I have of God and all the good, the lasting relationships He’s brought into my life, and bring them with me as I look forward; like snapshots I can tape to the dashboard.
A new year is coming and I love the idea of new; a clean slate, endless possibilities on the horizon as I drive forward on this new road. I can still glance back and remember the lessons I’ve learned from my mistakes, but it’s time to let my failures go, leave them in the dust, let them fade.
I’ve asked God to forgive me for all those things I’ve messed up and He has. So now it’s time to drive, to put the windows down and feel the freedom rush over me. No more regrets. No more guilt. No more shame. Now it’s just the touch of God on my heart as He tells me which way to go.
And with His direction, my friends, we won’t miss our turn.
“But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus.” (Philippians 3:13b-14 NIV.)