14 January 2009

"If you have found that you can change the past...

"If you have found that you can change the past by dwelling on it, then continue to do so until you meet your desired goal. Otherwise, I encourage you to learn from it and let it go." Ray Basile

Monday evening when I arrived home from Bible study, I turned on my computer screen and was greeted by a potent image of what it looks like to live in the past. I am not going to say what that image was, only that it turned my stomach. And I've been thinking about it ever since. This concept of living in the past has been on my heart and mind, and so I have a few thoughts I'd like to share.

Philippeans 3:14 says, "One thing I do: forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus."

Trust me, I've had my years of being stuck in the past. I more than understand people who find it difficult to move on - I've been there myself, and it wasn't an easy or peaceful place to be. There was so much pain, emotional turmoil, jealousy which admitting even now makes me blush, years of hiding myself from people, and what seemed like gallons of tears. It took me a long time and many painful experiences to learn that moving on hurts far less than living in a time to which you can't return. No matter what sort of pain it seems you just can't put behind you, you'll never have a fulfilled life unless you actually start living - and that means moving forward and not looking back.

Romans 12:1-2 commands us as Christians to present our bodies as living sacrifices to God as an act of spiritual service and worship, and not to conform to the patterns of this world, but to be transformed by the renewing of our minds.

And so I pose this question - how will we present ourselves as living sacrifices to God if we are clinging to what is dead? The past is dead, you see - we can't do anything about it, we can't change it, and we certainly can't go back and relive it.

God is not the God of the dead - He is God of the living, as Jesus said in Matthew 22:32. This was said within the context of a conversation about resurrection that Jesus had with the Sadducees, in which he told them that they did not know the Scriptures or the Power of God. The Sadducees were well known for their opposition to the idea of resurrection. Contrarily, a popular Jewish belief was that God showed His power most visibly through resurrection. So what Jesus actually said was that when the Sadducees dismissed resurrection, they dismissed the power of God. Now, who knows if Jesus was simply referring to physical resurrection in this case - but surely if the God who made the body can resurrect the body, the same God who also made the mind can resurrect that as well. We also reject the power of God when we live as though we reject His resurrection of our minds.

Shortly after this experience with the Sadducees (literally five verses later in the same chapter - see Matthew 22:37), Jesus told the Pharisees that the first and greatest commandment is to "love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind." With all your mind. It is so, so important to love God with all of your mind. In fact, we must love God with our minds to love Him properly at all.

In a famous sermon, John Wesley asked his listeners, "Now what is to love God, but to delight in Him, to rejoice in His will, to desire continually to please Him, to seek and find our happiness in Him, and to thirst day and night for a fuller enjoyment of Him?" And I ask you, how can we delight in Him, unless we understand what delights Him too? How can we rejoice in His will, unless our minds have studied the scriptures and know what His will is? How can we please Him, if our minds don't know what He desires? It is only through our growing understanding of God that we can grow into a deeper and deeper enjoyment of Him.

This concept is shown clearly in other relationships as well. Dating, for example, does not begin with a deeply-founded love. Oh no - it begins simply by two people being attracted to each other - seeing something they like in each other. The deeply-founded love that I mentioned only happens as those two people get to know each other, learn each other's likes and dislikes, find out what makes each other tick, and grow attracted not just to what they can see physically, but to each others' minds as well.

Am I making my point yet? To love God, we must know God. To know God, we must know His mind. And to know His mind, we must use ours. We must get to know what makes God "tick." But we cannot do this if our minds and hearts are looking into the past, dwelling on memories, and thinking about how things used to be, instead of allowing God to renew our minds so that we may love Him more deeply.

The first and greatest commandment is to love God.

I think I already adequately stated that the first two verses of Romans 12 make a clear command for us to let God renew our minds. But here's the encouraging part - God really, really wants to do this for us, just because He loves us. Zephaniah 3:17 - The Lord, your God, is in your midst, a warrior who gives victory; he will rejoice over you with gladness, he will renew you in his love; he will exult over you with loud singing. It is a litany of joy! I just love the thought of God singing over me. For me, there is hardly a more beautiful image of God's love than the one of Him singing a love song - for me.

And I wonder - what would happen if we brought our own songs into harmony with the Great Song, the song the Creator sings for us? How our lives of dissonance would change into lives of resonance and peace. If you have ears to hear...please hear God's music and join along.

I'm not writing off pain and making it trivial. Pain is real - of course it is. Everyone experiences it. But letting that pain rule you is where you go wrong.

And I'm certainly not writing off the lessons learned or the experiences themselves that taught us who we are and what we need from life. The past, with our experiences, is our basic foundation for who we are now and all the things we know. Don't divorce yourself from the past - just from the chaos that is created from holding onto sins or other pain. God said to remember the former things, yes, it's true - remember His works and His power and His ability to be the Yahweh of your life - a position that can be held by nobody else. God Himself is not limited by time. But we are, you see, and there's no going backwards.

I'm not even writing a rant or a sermon here. This is for me too. I myself refuse to become bitter at the world by looking backwards and keeping painful memories fresh. I myself choose to allow God to renew and transform me every single day. All I want is to press forward, and by doing so, glorify God and win that heavenly prize. I love God. I want to know His heart - and I want Him to know that my own heart belongs entirely to him. I myself refuse to dwell on the past.

What you do is always up to you. But life can only get worse if you cause your own strain by living in memories and not allowing God to fulfill you. So make your choices, dear Readers, but do so with the full knowledge that God wants you to choose Him - His love, His mind.

That girl in Switzerland


  1. Thank you for posting this, Heather. We're in Winter Revival and I've been asking God to renew my mind, my thoughts, my self-talk about me and others - your thoughts were very encouraging to me.

  2. hey heather,
    that was amazing and again really encouraging to me. thanks :-)
    I love the part which starts: "This concept is shown clearly in other relationships as well. Dating, for example, does not begin with a deeply-founded love." and so on. it is so true :-)
    I really want to spend time with you heather. what about sunday befor church?
    mega bisous, I really appreciate you and your thoughts, thanks God :-)