I’ve been thinking a lot about past events lately. For lots of reasons, not all of them good, but not all of them bad, either. I’ve also considered writing a memoir – crazy, I know, but all kinds of people are writing memoirs lately and it sounds fun. The past is a tricky thing. People say don’t live in it, don’t waste your time regretting it, what’s done is done…the fact is, what’s done is done, and there’s not a lot we can do about it now. So if we can’t change the past, which is true, and we shouldn’t dwell in it, which is also true, why can’t we just forget about it and move on? Is it possible that we’re not meant to?
Memories are fascinating. They are not always accurate. They are colored by our impressions of the circumstances, the people involved, our moods, either when the memory was created or recalled. And so the past becomes this vast subjective thing, where conversations and events are altered through our interpretations and impressions, either true or false. Very often, memories of the past are tainted with regret. I should have made a better choice. I wish I’d known then what I know now. What if I had done something or said something differently? Could I have done more? Should I have done less?
Then there are the parts of the past that we’d just rather not think about. Dark old secrets, the kind that lay buried most of the time, but sometimes bits and pieces show up, not always at the most convenient times. What do we do with them? Try to forget them? Wish they had never happened? For what it’s worth, here’s the perspective I’ve gained this week:
The failures of the past are more than just errors in judgment that we wish we could forget. As a believer in Christ, cleansed by his blood, I am forgiven of all those mistakes, and even the intentional sins I’ve committed. But I still remember them, even though sometimes I wish I could forget. Why? Because those things have shaped who I am today. There is no point in wishing they had never happened. I am forgiven, I’ve moved on, but in that process, my life and my character were changed. There was most likely an impact in others’ lives that they’ll never forget, either. We do this life thing together, and in some way, every choice we make changes our lives and the lives of people around us, in good ways and bad ways, for all eternity. That knowledge makes me want to live better in the future, make better choices now, so that the impact I leave on the lives of others is positive, not detrimental.
We can’t change the past. We can let it change us. Make us better, wiser, more forgiving of others’ mistakes. And when those things do pop up and we remember them, we can also remember where we came from, where we are now, and find reasons to be thankful for the blessings in our lives, both now and in the past. Most of all, I am thankful for the grace of God that covers my past, redeems it, and makes me new.
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. (Isaiah 43:19, ESV)
Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come. (2 Corinthians 5:17, ESV)