Have you ever been around someone that knows your past mistakes? You know the ones you never want others to discover. They are the secrets we keep buried in the deep recesses of our minds but then it happens, somehow your past comes back to haunt you and so do the feelings that come with it. They are those inescapable feelings of shame, guilt, and embarrassment which then, collectively lead to that awkward moment thus, the elephant in the room. You sigh, wince, get that pit in your stomach and wonder who just poured cold water over you as your heart races furiously. The life begins to drain as you now wait, “for the other shoe to fall”. After a self-conscious pause, there’s the vain wishing “this wasn’t happening” that then leads to the nagging question of who speaks first. Do you say anything or casually gloss over the obvious? Once again, there sits the elephant in the room. We’ve all been there, one time or another, so there’s no room for our sanctimonious attitudes! “Pride goes before the fall” as you may recall!
Here’s how I feel about the past in a nutshell. We can benefit from our past in two ways: 1. learning from it and 2. Not repeating it. Other than that, what’s the point? We can visit our past but we don’t have to dwell there. To visit our past can bring valuable reflection but to dwell in it only results in guilt and shame. The Bible tells us that Satan “is the accuser of the brethren.” He likes to keep us condemned by our past so we won’t stay free from it.
Now, let’s look at this from another angle. It’s also not our job to bring up the past and use it as a weapon against someone else. We seem to enjoy being accusers as well…hmm, did I strike a nerve?! If we are forgiven, then our sins are under the blood of Jesus never to be remembered. If Jesus forgets, why can’t we? How can we use the convenience of someone’s mistakes to solidify our arguments? We make our case, in our own piety, as though we never made a mistake or misstep. You know the old saying, “Don’t try to clean up somebody else’s backyard until, you clean up your own.”
The Bible says it like this, in a very direct passage from the Message Translation, “Don’t pick on people, jump on their failures, and criticize their faults – unless, of course, you want the same treatment. That critical spirit has a way of boomeranging. It’s easy to see a smudge on your neighbor’s face and be oblivious to the ugly sneer on your own. Do you have the nerve to say, ‘Let me wash your face for you,’ when your own face is distorted by contempt? It’s the whole traveling road-show mentality all over again, playing a holier-than-thou part instead of just living your part. Wipe that ugly sneer off your own face, and you might be fit to offer a washcloth to your neighbor.” (Matthew 7:1-6)
And that, Ladies and Gentlemen, is why I love the Message Translation of the Bible! It may not sound pretty, but it’s true! I love what author Jamie Buckingham once said, “The truth will set you free, but first it will make you miserable!”
The past not only needs to be history for someone else, it needs to be history for us too. No inmate freed from prison, seeks to be incarcerated again. The taste of freedom is sweet and the only way we can go back is if we choose to. There are always repeat offenders simply because they returned to the past instead of rejecting it. John 8:36 encourages us with, “He who the Son sets free, is free indeed.” Freedom has no term-limit or expiration date. Never forget that freedom belongs to us forever… and forever is a long, long time! This freedom flies on the wings of God’s incomparable love and takes us, in the profound words of Buzz Lightyear, from the movie Toy Story…”to infinity and beyond!”