Are you tempted to live in the past? Do you need permission to let go of a heartache, transgression, or even just a silly mistake? You not only have permission but are commanded to look forward!
“Forget the former things; do not dwell in the past. See, I am doing a new thing! Now it springs up; do you not perceive it? I am making a way in the desert and streams in the wasteland.” Isaiah 43:18-19 (NIV)
“…But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining forward 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 3:13-14 (NIV)
I have a tendency to ruminate over my past mistakes. Lying in bed at night, I often replay situations and conversations, worrying I might have missed an opportunity or inadvertently offended someone. Even more distressing to me are the memories of my blatant failure and sin. God never asked me to beat myself up mentally, but only to confess, repent, and move on.
If you are like me and the word repentance makes you squirm or even cringe, then maybe some clarification would be helpful. After all, God says that His commandments are not burdensome (I John 5:2-3). Repentance simply means to turn around. It does not mean to confess the same sin over and over in grief and despair. We simply tell God we were wrong and go the other way. His forgiveness is always available and was fully secured when Jesus became the final sacrifice for sins.
“After the suffering of His soul He will see and be satisfied; by His knowledge My righteous Servant will justify many, and He will bear their iniquities.”Isaiah 53:11 (NIV)
My sister likes to say, “turn the page!” Sometimes a simple picture like this helps me grasp a truth. In a moment when I am tempted to torment myself for not measuring up, I visualize turning a page in a book and it truly helps me let go. Hanging on to unforgiveness toward yourself or others eats away at the abundant life promised to us through Jesus Christ.
“The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I came that they may have life, and have it abundantly.” John 10:10 (NASB)
Forgetting the past comes more easily for some personalities than others, but we can all move forward with God’s help. It takes faith to let yourself and others off the hook and God’s Word is filled with promises of forgiveness and healing available through Jesus Christ.
My sister (the one who reminds me to “turn the page!)” happens to be a talented poet. Please enjoy her poem that illuminates the needless anguish of self-condemnation in light of the power of the resurrection of Jesus Christ.
By Jennifer Galey
The stained glass walls are colored
with the turbulence of suffering.
Inside the temple questions rise
above the serenity of the steeple.
Murals of dappled saints stare
with their round anguished eyes
through the sculpture of my soul.
Kneeling low on trembling knees,
I light a candle to illuminate
the nameless carcass of sin.
With a gasp of shameful recognition,
I confess the face is my own
before shrinking into the stretched
shadows of bereavement.
I lean in to decorate Your living altar
with a dozen flowering prayers of penance.
The exhale of my unbelief has tainted
the fragrance of Your sacrament.
Beneath the blood warm silence,
I oscillate inside the casket
embodied by my own hesitance.
Dripping wax falls from candelabras
like condemnation on my clammy hands.
Gleaming thoughts of accusation flicker
before flaming into vain imaginations.
I ask you if I am alone—
My stony voice echoes inside
the coldness of my hollow heart.
I search for a pulse of dying faith
in the darkness of this empty space
where I presumed You would reside.
With red-rimmed eyes, I limply walk
down the center aisle where I collide
with two bright angels You have sent
to guard the resurrection of Your reply.
Happy New Year!
*Photo credit: Clay Clark
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