When The Past Keeps Presenting Itself
The Past has power. It defines. It reminds. It hurts. It invades the present. Like a trendy ageing rock-star’s weirdly tinted glasses, the Past colours how we see our present and discolours our future. As a result, we often treat others based on our past experiences with them. We also treat our present problems based on how we’ve dealt with similar past problems. But the Past, just a little more than the present, and quite unlike the future, has the unavoidably bad habit of becoming out-of-date and even obsolete. Have you allowed the Past rent-free occupancy in your life?
In the Past when a patient was suffering from high blood pressure, physicians would use leeches to “blood-let” their patient (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bloodletting). This practice started with the ancient Greeks and continued up until the 1800s. Someone had the courage to examine the Past and realised that patients got worse and not better as a result bloodletting. Have you ever considered that what you’ve been doing in the past hasn’t worked? Like the person who grew up watching their parents fight whenever they had a disagreement and then faces a problem in their own marriage and is almost instinctively guided by the Past, resorts to this futile strategy to solve their own crisis. Just as the end of ancient medical bloodletting came when courage was used to realise that this strategy didn’t ever work for their parents and it has never actually worked for them either!
The Past has a cousin called Nostalgia. Nostalgia loves talking about his cousin but does so in a very distorted fashion. Nostalgia magnifies the good times and attempts to convince us that these good times were far better than they actually were, and at the same time tries to tell us that the bad times weren’t that bad! It’s hard to spot Nostalgia - after all, it always creeps up behind us and begins with a whisper in our ear with a pleasant memory. But there is a kind of Nostalgia that is closer to sorcery than Remembering because it takes a damaging past event and reinvents it as the present solution to a similar difficulty. For example, I know of a person who was introduced to drinking. Initially they felt somewhat guilty for accepting the introduction but as time went on that drinking session became a Nostalgic memory which helped them relax. They then experienced some unwelcome stress and Nostalgia whispered in their ear that a drink would help them to relax. They struck up quite a friendship with Nostalgia and accepted Nostalgia’s suggestion that they now “needed a drink” in order to feel happy, gather their thoughts, and cope. Meanwhile Nostalgia is sniggering behind their backs as another victim is now fully duped.
When the Eternal Jesus came to redeem mankind His atoning death had the effect of reaching into the Past, changing the Present, and redirecting the Future. This was illustrated on the night He was betrayed when He took bread and said, “Do this” (Present) “in remembrance of Me” (the Past) “until I come” (Future). Christ’s Cross transcends time! He deals with our Past, aids our Present, and gifts our Future.
Because of the Gospel (the supernatural life-giving message of Christ’s work and offer) we can break free from our negative Pasts, live an overcoming Present and have a brighter better Future. The Gospel shows us that people change. You may think that you have no hope. But the Gospel gives us hope. It teaches us that the angry can become easy-going, the downcast can become joyous, and the despairing can become optimistic. The next time you find yourself saying, “Here we go again” remember the Gospel you have accepted - and remember that the Gospel has delivered you from your Past, given you guidance for your Present, and invested you with hope for a better future.
Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come.
Second Corinthians 5:17
“Remember not the former things,
nor consider the things of old.
Behold, I am doing a new thing;
now it springs forth, do you not perceive it?
I will make a way in the wilderness
and rivers in the desert.