Forgetting the Past
SEPTEMBER 19, 2019
“No, dear brothers and sisters, I have not achieved it, but I focus on this one thing: Forgetting the past and looking forward to what lies ahead, I press on to reach the end of the race and receive the heavenly prize for which God, through Christ Jesus, is calling us.” —Philippians 3:13-14
I grew up in a broken home. What I remember was a divided household full of anger and resentment. A lot of that stemmed around my parents’ divorce, culminating in verbal abuse and family division. I didn’t have a father figure around until my mom got remarried, but even then my stepdad and I didn’t get along.
I lived in low income housing, wasn’t popular, and ended up in fights with local bullies at my school. There was also the shame I felt getting picked on because I was part of the punk rock scene and the sexual abuse I endured as a young boy. Most days I felt like an outcast.
Like many other young boys, I lashed out in anger trying to earn respect and approval. I made careless decisions and hooked up with a lot of random girls thinking that would make me feel loved. I only felt more shame though.
I never realized how much my early years impacted me so negatively until I went through the 12 Steps. Most people assume you go through the Steps because you’re an alcoholic or drug addict. However, I discovered a lot of churches offer recovery programs focused around healing from past wounds using the 12 Steps as a recovery process. At first, I wasn’t even sure why I was there, but I knew something was wrong with my past continuing to haunt me.
Throughout the process, my core wounds bubbled to the surface, and I discovered I harbored a lot of resentment in my life. My past self was—in effect—breathing toxicity into my present. Working the 12 Steps healed so much in my life as I made amends and forgave those who wounded me in the past. It freed me not only to love my enemies but also myself.
In Philippians 3, Paul reminds the church at Philippi that he hasn’t yet arrived in life. He will still make mistakes. But he doesn’t let his past dictate his future either. He strives forward with the goal of Christ at the forefront. And the Apostle Paul’s resume has mine beat. He tortured, imprisoned, and murdered Christians before his conversion. Just imagine how much shame and guilt he could have had around that portion of his life. Instead, he doesn’t let his past wounds and sins dictate who he is in the present.
When I went through the Steps, I realized this had to be true for me as well. I could give authority to my past to dictate who I was or how my life would play out, or I could press forward with Christ in mind and what he says about me.
When we choose freedom from our past, it’s because we see ourselves as Christ sees us—holy and blameless due to his life, death, and resurrection that covers our past. We’re not fatherless. We’re not alcoholics or addicts. We’re not even victims. All those words people and society have lobbed at us no longer hold any power over us because Jesus gives us a new heart and a new mind that breathes his unending love into our being. But that’s the hard part also, because it’s a choice. We can hand over our identity to Christ and let him impart a new one, or we can continue to believe the lies the accuser whispers to us.
But like Paul reminds us, we will stumble along the way. The life of faith and our identity in Christ is a marathon, not a sprint. The goal of a marathon for most people is just to complete the race. As long as you keep running, you’ll reach the finish line. Don’t forget to keep your eyes fixed on the finish line and the way Christ continues to cheer for you.
The past is behind you, but the future looks bright.
1. Write one to three lies you believe about yourself that you know God would never say about you (i.e. “I’m dumb” / “I’ll never amount to much” / “Everyone hates me” / “I’m an addict and always will be”).
2. Now take time to pray and ask God what he says about you and write those down.
3. Finally, look at your lies versus God’s truth and say “I’m not a__________ (example: idiot, addict, pervert) but God says I’m ________ (whatever God said about you).
Taken from Jake Luhr’s devotional, Mountains.