Everybody has a past. Things we would do different if given the chance. Screw-ups that hurt ourselves and others. We bear the wounds of parents who didn’t love us well, teachers who vilified us, coaches who belittled us, bosses who disrespected us, customers who fired us, and friends who betrayed us. The past can be tough.
Some say wisdom comes with experience, but that’s not always true. Wisdom comes from evaluated experience. Wise people learn from their experiences and the experiences of others. They take responsibility, learn and get better. Fools blame others, fail to learn and become bitter.
Agathon said, “Even God cannot change the past.” He was right. What’s done is done. While God can’t change the past, He can use it if we’ll let Him. Look at how the writers of the Old Testament use the experiences of the children of Israel to show us God’s nature, His grace and His truth. Look at how the writers of the New Testament use the life of Jesus, the Apostles and the early church to inform us of the nature of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit.
As we walk through life, we face similar circumstances over and over. Each time, we get a chance to respond differently. The question is will we? Will we follow the ‘street definition’ of insanity . . . “to act the same way but expect a different result”? Or will we learn from the past, make better decisions and grow in wisdom?
Every year, I watch my mentees deal with the guilt they associate with their pasts. For them and for most of us, it’s just so hard to grasp that God’s forgiveness separates us from our past sin “as far as the east is from the west.” ‘East’ and ‘west’ aren’t locations, they’re directions. When God forgives the sins of our past, He removes them and keeps removing them from us. Out of gratitude, our response is to move in the opposite direction from those sins as well as the temptations and ‘triggers’ that can lead us into them again. God’s forgiveness cost Him His priceless Son’s life. Far be it from me to belittle that gift by dwelling on past sins God has already forgiven and forgotten.
Owning your past, taking personal responsibility, gratefully receiving God’s forgiveness (and His correction), gaining wisdom by evaluating the past and learning from it? Yes. Replaying the tape of those sins and all their consequences? No.
A cool line in a song I heard last week . . . “You can’t steer a boat by looking at the wake.”
Another good line I heard a speaker say recently . . . “A crucified man can only look forward.”
Let go of the past and move forward in gratitude for all that God has done for you.
Scripture: He has removed our sins as far from us as the east is from the west. (Psalm 103:12)
Mentor Tip: As your guys tell their stories, don’t let them ‘off the hook’ without confessing their past sin. There’s only been one sinless man who walked on earth and there’s a 100% chance He’s not in your group! In Life Together, Bonhoeffer writes, “In confession there occurs a breakthrough to new life. The break with the past is made when sin is hated, confessed, and forgiven. ‘Everything has become new’” (2 Corinthians 5:17).