God has convicted me about how I relate to my past. Years ago (and along the way since) I went through a lot of my past experiences and faced abuses and mistreatment I experienced–as a kid, a teenager, an adult, from unbelievers and believers, from family members and those I barely knew, from classmates, close friends, and strangers. It hasn’t always been easy, but I have found joy and peace in being obedient to the Lord’s mandate to forgive, and have applied the blood of Christ, choosing to forgive “just as in Christ the Lord has forgiven” me.
I feel no obvious resentment, anger, or hostility for many of the things that I have “forgiven.” When I do sense resentment or anger surfacing, I typically have found such relief and freedom for *myself* in forgiving, that I work through it again rather earnestly, so as not to allow a bitter root to be established in my life with all the poison it can spread.
Nevertheless, in some ways, I seem to hold on to the past by pointing to it for a reference point for now. It is like if only I can show people what my past was like, how horribly I was treated in the past, and show in comparison just how completely God has transformed me, that is a good thing, isn’t it?
Well, yes and no!
Yes, it is a wonderful thing that God has taken my broken, battered, heart and life and transformed me from what I surely would have been apart from him, and given me a wonderful family–two great kids, a loving husband, a terrific home life…I am SO blessed! These are incredible things!
But, NO… I seem to almost relish the retelling of my past story a bit much so that I can take pride that I have not become what I would have been. In other words, I have formed my sense of my identity based, in part, on my past failures and my past life…which I have supposedly extended forgiveness for and been forgiven for… How much can I really be FREE of the past if I continue to retell the stories of the past, so I can point out “Look at how great I am in light of all I have been through?”
Obviously, I don’t go parading around stating it in such an obvious way (not usually!). People would see through that. It is more subtle than that but my flesh and the enemy of my soul delight in the way it trips me up.
If my identity or sense of who I am now is at all intertwined with who I was in the past, I am not entirely sure I am living in the present or can truly experience the freedom that the Lord wants me to experience in Him.
I may also NOT really be forgiving!
Forgiveness doesn’t mean forgetting, necessarily, but, like Robert S. McGee says in The Search for Significance it does mean that I won’t relish the memory for any purpose. At least that is my take on it.
Even with my Thin Within journey, I wonder about this. If I retell my story again and again about being a “dieting failure” and even a “Thin Within failure,” am I really forgiving myself for my past rebellions and indiscretions? Sure, there is a point where my testimony is valuable for encouraging others…but where does my emphasis–my focus–lie? Is it on what I was and “look at me now!” Or is it on what Christ has done? Am I really seeking to glorify Christ? Or self?
If I retell the failure part of my testimony again and again, is it possible that I am allowing that to define my worth and value a bit too much now? And then, just how big of a leap is it for me to take one of my “mistakes” today and think, “See? I haven’t changed that much after all…I am still the same old failure, pretending not to be!”
Forgiveness is the desire to extend to another the freedom and release that we ourselves have been given at the cross. Get Thin Stay Thin p. 151
If I truly have forgiven myself for my choices in the past and have forgiven my mom, my dad, and others for wrongs done against me, I will want them to be free from that past, too. I will want them to be released. I will want to experience FULLY the freedom and release that Christ affords me…and want that for others as well.
I definitely won’t use the way I was treated or the way I behaved to make me feel better about myself now.