The Past: That Train has Left the Station

looking back to good times train

The past can be a pesky business. Thinking about it can lead to 2 trains of thought. One path revisits the train wrecks we’ve made of certain situations. The other track leads to a sort of longing…a wishing we could go back to how things were when life was ‘good’. Both past-trains can render us stuck and unable to move forward in life.

train wreck of the past

Train Wreck

Getting held up because of a Train Wreck in our past can immobilize us due to frequent stops at negative stations like guilt, shame or unforgiveness. We severely limit ourselves from the fullness of our potential when we allow past mistakes to define us. Forgiveness for self and forgiveness for others is a journey. However, we need to be aware that there are ways we can bring it to a grinding halt. If we don’t consistently choose forgiveness for ourselves and for others, the stench of the past robs our ability to breathe the air of today.

we all make mistakes_train

The motivation to forgive is grounded in this teaching from Christ: For if you forgive other people when they sin against you, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. But if you do not forgive others their sins, your Father will not forgive your sins (Matthew 6:14-15). I take that to cover not only forgiving others, but also forgiving ourselves. If the God of the Universe forgives us (and He does when we come clean with Him), then who are we to not forgive ourselves?

It’s almost as though we want God to say over and over that He forgives us…to speak into our insecurity. But God says in Psalm 103:12 that as soon as we have dealt with the issue, He forgives and sees us as clean. When He forgives us, it’s not partial. No matter how many times we beat ourselves up, God gave all forgiveness in the first conversation. It may feel too good to be true; that is the amazing grace of God. Accepting it is the way forward from a train wreck of a situation.

looking back to good times train

Good Times Train

The hard times in our past are not the only things that can derail us. Nostalgia can become a sub-conscience trap. We remember how happy we felt once upon a time and wish we could ‘get back’ to how things were. God, however, never calls us backward. He leads us to grow and move forward on our journey. I think of Lot’s wife (Genesis 19:12-26). The path ahead of her seemed uncomfortable and scary, so she wasted herself—literally—on looking back and longing for what was.

It’s not that our good times weren’t great; it’s that they belong to the past.

We can even do this in our relationship with God. We may:

  • remember times when we were ‘on fire’ for God, but now feel flat
  • recall seasons when we couldn’t get enough of studying the Bible, but now feel like it’s something we should do
  • reflect to periods when all we wanted was to do things God’s way, but now it’s a struggle to keep on track

…and we wish we could recapture those days. But God doesn’t. Every season of our life is in place so we will experience God in a new way—not just the ways we’ve already enjoyed with Him.

full steam ahead to now train

The NOW Train

To move forward, it’s time to hop on the NOW Train. It’s a bit of an aggressive ride, but it goes to refreshing places. Here’s your ticket to NOW:

  • Na na na na…hey hey hey…goodbye.
    Will you let the past be in the past? The space that’s been occupied with ‘what was’ now becomes available for ‘what’s next’.
  • Oh for the love of all that is holy — ease up on yourself.
    So you messed up. Ok. Welcome to being human. Even if others want to rub your nose in it, God doesn’t.
  • What can you do to experience God in a new way?
    I asked someone the other day, “What’s your favorite color?” When she said it was red, I said, “Every time you see something red, let that trigger you to talk to God, think about Him, praise Him…” It’s not always about ‘doing’ more; it’s about soaking in His presence.
A Train Blessing

As you pull away—full steam ahead–from the station of the past, here’s my prayer for you:

May you recall train wreck times as powerful moments of learning and redirection.
May the good times be precious memories allowed to remain in their time and space.
May NOW be your moment to embrace the present and His presence.

You can’t go back

Do you ever wish you could “go back to how things were”?

Most of us can recall days when things were easier…better… Usually, we’re remembering a stretch when relationships were stronger, everyone we loved was around, ‘bill’ was a guy’s name not something we had to pay, and chocolate was free. It’s tempting to not only spend time wishing for a return to the old days, but to also spend energy trying to recreate the feelings and settings of the past.

It doesn’t work; but it doesn’t work for a reason. God doesn’t want us to “go back” in our relationships…not with each other and not with Him.

When we’re straining to get back, it’s often to escape what is. Pain, anger, loss, disillusionment, betrayal…these can be so disheartening that we can—mistakenly—think, “If only things could go back to the way they were.” Not only can we not go back, but renewed purpose is found in embracing the truth that adventure lies ahead.

How can we be people who look forward instead of back?

It’s about taking the pain, disappointment and scars and creating something new.

  • Often, we will stay in a situation that is not good for us simply because it’s all we know. When life leaves a mark on us due to our circumstances, we must decide: Will we can keep picking at the wound, or will we allow it to become only a reminder of what we’ve learned? 2 Corinthians 5:17

It’s about knowing other people and knowing God in new ways because you’re different.

  • As we learn from the shifts in our lives, we cannot help but be molded by them. If we are open to growing instead of longing to go back, we become more interesting…and more interested in others. Some of life’s lessons can only be learned in the hard, dark places. God is there. If we are open to it, we gain new understandings of Him when He meets with us there and loves us through it. Isaiah 43:19

It’s about knowing wisdom comes with experience.

  • While I wish the hard things in my life had never happened, I wouldn’t trade what I learned because they did. I remember this when new difficulties come. I know that I will gain from the experience because I know God will be there to guide me. Romans 8:28

It’s about knowing we shouldn’t long to go back; we should long to learn and grow.

  • Whatever we feed is that which grows in our lives. If we constantly are looking in the rear-view mirror at what was, we’ll miss the beauty of what’s around us and ahead of us. If we are determined to only glance back for safety (to recall the lessons we learned when they are needed), we are open to continuing the grand adventure God has in store. It requires us to have the discipline to only feed thoughts that take us forward. 2 Corinthians 10:5

When we’re tempted to say, “I wish things could go back to the way they were”, I want to encourage us, instead, to say, “Because of what I’m going through, I’m looking for the meaning in this and looking forward to what lies ahead.” This isn’t a positive-thinking mantra. This is a faith statement that will lead to our hearts’ desires.

I’d love to hear your thoughts and experiences. Write a comment…men and women invited!!! Also, be sure to subscribe to this blog and you’ll get updates when new posts come out.