Even God can’t change the past
No matter how many tears I’ve cried
Yes, I thought this dream would last
Who am I to question why
Who am I
From Charlotte Church’s song “Even God Can’t Change the Past”
The line was actually ripped off from Agathon, an Athenian tragic poet who lived in the early part of the 5th century. His complete thought was “This only is denied even to God…the power to undo the past”.
Maybe I’m weird, but I find great comfort in this – in knowing even God can’t change the past. That ‘what’s done is done’. That you can’t put the toothpaste back in the tube. Spilt milk back in the jug. I believe it’s a gift from God…this dark black line between the past and now. It’s why He gave us His grace the way He did – through Jesus’ ‘once and for all time’ sacrifice to cover our sins, past, present and future. The dark black line in time, the line that marks ‘forgiven’ and not, is the line marked, not by the moment we asked for forgiveness, not even marked by our accepting Christ and being adopted into God’s family, but by the moment Jesus gave His life to pay our fine for unrighteousness. Unrighteous things we did yesterday, that we’ll do today, and what we’ll do tomorrow, even though we don’t intend to.
There’s great freedom in knowing the past is the past and that it can’t be changed.
The song asks….“Who am I to question why?”
For the Christ-follower, this is the wrong question. I know who I am. God loves me. I’m one of His favorites. I’m adopted. He intentionally came after me. So the “who” part is off the table. But the “why” part is valid to ask.
So if I know He loves me, and I know everything is (eventually) for His glory, and I know He either makes or allows everything to happen (i.e. His sovereign will) … the past poses two questions. Only two.
“Lord, what are you teaching me here…about you, about myself, about others, about life?”
“Jesus, how would you have me respond….what would you have me do?”
I meet too many people who are stuck second-guessing the past. “If I only I had…”. “Why didn’t I see……”. “What was I thinking when I…..”. It’s hard to get over stuff that happens when it starts with “Here, hold my beer and watch this!” It’s harder when we were doing our best and things still blew up. And harder still when we didn’t have anything to do with it. Somebody else went nuts, or stopped paying attention for a few seconds, or skipped a doctor’s appointment. And wrecked our dreams.
Can’t resist the urge to quote the ‘serenity prayer’, first coined by Reinhold Niebuhr then adopted by Alcoholics Anonymous…
God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change,
The courage to change the things I can,
And the wisdom to know the difference.
The past is something no one can change…even God, not that He’s limited. I think it’s just a choice He made.
And that’s the real point here. The past, viewed honestly and objectively, can be the voice of God in our lives. Making mistakes is human. Making the same mistakes over and over again is stupid. The definition of insanity…to repeat the same behavior and expect a different result. I tell mentees…”Learn from my mistakes. Make different ones. The value I receive from sharing my screw-ups comes from knowing the pain I caused is leveraged…multiple people learning from the mistakes of one.
God paid too high a price to cover our sins for us to continue to wallow in them. He gave us a “do-over”. A fresh start. He made us “new creations in Christ”. Being released from the “body of death” the Apostle Paul talks about involves truly accepting this free gift of starting over with a clean slate. Is there still pain? Yes. Are we going to live with the consequences of our sins, maybe for the rest of our stay on this planet? Absolutely. Will there be other people hurt by our failures who won’t forgive us and let go of our past. Unfortunately, yes.
But is it His will that we grovel around second-guessing what we did yesterday and let the evil one rob us of the chance to make a difference tomorrow?
Not a chance.
Question: Is there something from your past you’re still ‘chewing’ on? Would you benefit from a personal conversation with God about it? Maybe taking it off your hands and placing it in His would free you up to receive whatever He has in store for you now.
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