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Monday, 20 October 2014

Tears, Tantrums and Trusting (Part I) - Stop Dwelling in the Past

Forget about what's happened;
don't keep going over old history.
Be alert, be present. I'm about to do something brand-new
It's bursting out! Don't you see it?
(Isaiah 43:18-19, MSG)


I first had the idea for this mini-series of posts about two months ago, with a vague idea of the sort of thing it might be about, but nothing more. 

I'm definitely in the middle of a season of learning, and one of the main things it's been teaching me is how to live in the moment. It's something that's kept coming up over and over recently, so I thought it was about time I sat up and paid attention. 

This passage from Isaiah pretty much sums it up for me, and I particularly love the version in The Message - it packs a punch which, quite honestly, I need sometimes. 

For me, there are two things that seriously get in the way of being able to live in the moment: dwelling in the past, and fixating on the future. Over the next couple of posts I'll be sharing a little bit of what those two things look like in my life, and how I'm trying to work through them to truly be able to live in the moment. 

I'm ashamed to say that there have been a couple of foot-stamping tantrums along the way. There have definitely been plenty of tears. I'm not that good at the trusting - yet. But it's definitely something I'm working on. Or rather, it's definitely something God's working on.  

Forget about what's happened


I think there's an important distinction to make between remembering (and learning from) the past, and getting stuck in a cycle of dwelling too much on those things. The first is (in my opinion) completely healthy, and actually really important if I'm going to grow and develop as a person. It's the second one that's a problem, and it's the second one where I usually get stuck. 

When something painful, difficult and/or unexpected happens, my first reaction is to keep playing things over and over in my head, usually to the tune of those all-too-familiar What-Ifs: What if I hadn't said/done that? What if I'd said/done X instead? I don't think that there's anything wrong with that in the short-term - it's just part of the way I process and deal with things. 

But there's always a point where I cross the line between healthy processing and destructive over-analysis. And that kind of overthinking almost inevitably leads to me firing these kind of questions at God: 

What was the point of You taking me on such a long journey, for it to end there?

You knew that was going to happen. Why did you let me keep praying/thinking/doing that?

That isn't what I thought You'd told me would happen. 

I don't feel like I can trust You anymore. 

Do You even care?

Ouch. 

Those are all genuine questions I've asked over the last few months. Genuine feelings, from real things that have happened. Even now as I read some of those back, it's making me wince. It's not really the done thing, is it, for Christians to admit to struggles or doubts? But I think it's time for me to start being real.

I'd love to be able to say that I've got to a point now where that's all done with. I'd love to, but in all honesty, I can't. But it doesn't hurt as much as it did. 

So what happened? 

In essence, God happened. And that included one particularly memorable prayer time that got totally and utterly ambushed. 

I'd planned to spend some time worshipping and praying about something specific; He had other ideas. Five minutes later I was in a heap on the carpet, sobbing out five-year-old hurt that, in reality, was still deeply affecting my life and, in particular, my relationships. I'd been running away from it for years, but clearly God had decided that enough was enough, that I'd been hiding from it for too long. 

Something shifted that day. Something that had been holding me prisoner started to crack and crumble at its foundation. I'm not totally there yet. I'm still very much a work in progress. But progress has been, and is being made. I know it's still going to be a long road. I'm sure it won't be painless. But I know that God's going to finish what He started that day. 

And, of course, I couldn't help thinking: if only I'd gone to Him sooner. If I'd taken that pain to Jesus instead of trying to deal with it on my own, failing and burying it instead. If I'd left it at the foot of the cross before it had time to take root in my heart. Before it could do that much damage. 

Only this time the What-Ifs weren't destructive. This time, they simply reminded me where I should be turning when I feel overwhelmed by old hurts, or when history comes back to haunt me. When I get stuck in the past. And goodness knows I need reminding of that often.

If that resonates with you, if you're feeling like you've got stuck in the past and don't know how to move forward, I'd really encourage you to give it a go. Take it to Jesus, and let him help. Don't be afraid to let Him take control. He knows what He's doing. 

At the risk of sounding clich├ęd or cheesy,  He is the God that heals. I know, because I've glimpsed it for myself. 

It was our weaknesses He carried; it was our sorrows that weighed Him down...He was beaten so we could be whole. He was whipped so we could be healed. (Isaiah 53:4-5, NLT)

"Come to me," Jesus says, "all who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest." (Matt. 11:28, NIV)

Don't keep going over old history

After all, if you try and walk forward whilst looking backwards, you'll either fall over or end up going round in circles. 

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