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God certainly works in mysterious ways!  This week I was attending a bible study on the Book of Revelation by Beth Moore entitled Here and Now … There and Then.  If you have never been part of a bible study by Beth Moore, I highly recommend her study series.  She is humorous, to the point, and is very well in tune with what scripture says.

We had just finished watching one of Beth’s DVDs for this study of which the concluding message was, “You cannot love God and despise people at the same time.”  My first thought was, “Really?  Doesn’t God want us to hate the ways of this world?”  But, I guess, hating worldly ways is vastly different than feeling contempt for people themselves.  Still, I must admit that I find it a whole lot more comfortable to isolate myself from people rather than take the risk of being deceived, manipulated, and/or judged … and yes, there are people I despise.  Well, perhaps “despise” is a bit too harsh.  Let’s put it this way, I’d rather have a root canal than be around certain people.

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I can’t tell you the number of times I have heard, “Let it go.  It’s all in the past” or “Why do you want to dig all that up again?”  Some well-meaning Christian friends and family have often told me that the Bible states that you should forget the past, referring to Philippians 3:13:

Brothers, I do not consider myself yet to have taken hold of it. But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead. (NIV)

Unfortunately, this sentiment is neither practical nor biblical.  Don’t we all wish that we could change some of the more painful parts of our pasts?  Wouldn’t it be great if we could just forget, as if it had never taken place to begin with?  The truth is, however, we can’t.

I don’t know of one victim of abuse that enjoys the memories, the pain, or the many ways those events have negatively impacted their adult lives.  “Forgetting” is not a choice.  When was the last time you tried to intentionally forget something?  Did it work?  Sure, we can stuff it down and put a veil over it whenever it reappears, or pretend it’s not there, but it’s still there whether we are willing to acknowledge it or not.

What I went through as a child has impacted almost every aspect of my adult life.  The dreams I had as a little girl … getting married, having children, raising a family, having a good career, etc. … were affected.  Low self-esteem, depression, panic attacks, and isolation have haunted me for most of my life.  My spirituality was severely affected … How can you trust a God that allowed all of that to happen? Repeatedly?

Perhaps when society as a whole tells us, “It’s all in the past,” they are really trying to protect themselves.  Who wants to hear the pain?  Who wants to believe how much of this stuff goes on right under our own noses?  It’s easier to pretend, to turn a deaf ear, and to blame the victim for “not getting over it.”

The past is part of who we are.  It molded us.  Yes, we can change, but to deny it isn’t good for the individual nor is it good for society.  I often wonder if the current epidemic of child abuse would be as bad if society was just willing to LISTEN.  Why is it so taboo to talk about such things, especially when it involves our precious defenseless children?!

Regarding Phil. 3-13, Paul was not insinuating that we should or even that we could forget our pasts.  This passage must be read in its full context.  He, in part, was referring to his past accomplishments and that he refused to let pride get in the way of the goal that God had planned for him.

God created our memories for a purpose.  We are to learn from our pasts.  It’s only by looking at the past that we can correct any misbeliefs we may have picked up along the way.  We should not, however, use the past to keep us from pressing on towards the goal for which He has called us.

Bottom line: We are who we are because of our pasts.  Now, how can we use it to better ourselves and to fulfill the purpose we were put on this earth for?

Don’t put a period where God has placed a comma.  Keep pedaling on!

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