Is it just me or does anyone else find themselves, during quiet times, thinking back over their lives, dwelling on the various times they made mistakes, said something stupid, did something stupid, or, worse, got in trouble for something? This is a particular weakness of mine. I will be minding my own business, and randomly, my brain calls back to my memory some painful or embarrassing time/moment that makes me squirm with discomfort – That time a senior student told me I needed to place more of a priority on a project I was working on for her. That time I was 7 years old and didn’t stop my friend from lying to her mother about whether or not we had eaten breakfast – and – even worse – went along with the lie. That time I asked my now-husband-then-friend to the school’s Sadie Hawkin’s dance after saying that I didn’t think girls should ask guys to dances because they would feel compelled to say yes, and, as he told me later, sure enough, he just didn’t know how to say no. And the most horrible memory of all – that time I didn’t pay the rent on time because I was out of a job and the landlord (a friend’s father) got angry with me and “uninvited me” to their party for July 4th. I was the only girl in our group of friends who didn’t get to go.
Yes, every single misstep or mistake I made in my life is branded in my memory, and no matter how young I was or how well-intentioned I was, I still shudder and get a churning stomach when I think of them. Apparently there are people who can forget their mistakes. And/Or, ask God to forgive them, and move on. I am not one of those. Whether or not I think God has forgiven me, I have a terrible time forgiving myself. I have to be careful not to wander in the past too long, because I get very downhearted and ashamed of all the stumbles, small or large, I have made in my life.
Those quotes about how failure is a precursor to success? My brain agrees, and even understands. The rest of me, however, just crumples up into a tiny ball at failure.
I have been feeling more and more convicted lately that it is time to move on. That I have to stop living in the past and look forward to the future, to learning and moving on. That I actually have to take God serious when He says He forgives me, and when Isaiah 43:18-19 says “Forget the former things, do not dwell on the past. See, I am doing a new thing! Now it springs up, do you not perceive it?” When I delve into past missteps, I tend to find myself living as though whatever I was thinking about was a recent mistake, that I can’t do anything right and might as well not even try, and as long as I just stick to myself and never talk, maybe I will never say or do anything stupid again.
Another verse I find very encouraging, yet hard to put into practice, is Philippians 3:13b – 14: “But 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.”
So, as I find it more and more impressed in myself to let go of the past, during the frequent times I find my mind recalled to a past mistake, whether or not related to something I am currently working on, I have begun to pray that God would take it from me, that He would help me forgive myself and move on, that I stop dwelling on the past.
I think it will improve quality of life – and I don’t believe God ever intended us to let the past keep us from pressing on and moving up – that is why He offers forgiveness. Living in the past is a dangerous habit. I can attest from experience, dwelling on the past beyond learning from your mistakes can prevent you from doing your best in other portions of your life – fear of failure is a powerful force that can weigh you down instead of causing you to put your all in something. And worst of all, it can cause depression where there is no need for it – because if you have learned from a mistake and moved on, you should be rejoicing that you have another building block on your road to success. How’s that for preaching to myself? 😛
Anyway, those are just my random thoughts on living in the past, while I face yet another issue in my life that God is graciously working with me on.