Letting go of the past

Sunday, June 19, 2011

What does it mean to let go of the past? Does it mean forgetting about all the joys, friendships and goodtimes you've experienced? Is it not being sorry for the wrong you've caused and failing to make retribution for the damage. Do you never think about whom you've hurt?

Wondering about what one should do about recollections of the past and meeting the future was evidently prevalent even when Scripture was written, because St. Paul offered his solution. He said "Brothers, I do not consider that I have made it my own. But one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead, I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus." Philippians 3: 13-14.

Although Paul was speaking of his evil past, his present goal to meet God at life's end, and help bring heaven to earth, you can apply his wisdom to other goals as well, goals that people have.

Letting go of the past means to let go of what debilitates you and refusing to keep re-hashing the mistakes you made. It means letting go of outcomes over which you had no control. Children have to be released to become adults. It means to make up or clean up the damage you've done to relationships and society the best you can, and then "move ahead."

If someone keeps hanging onto what brings him grief and heartache, he is like an overloaded truck. When the truck was empty, it moved fast. The more baggage it acquired, the slower it traveled. Finally it came to a standstill and could go no further. The same scenario happens to us when we hold on to the incapacitating things in life. We're unable to tackle anything new or progress ahead because we're so overloaded with what went on before that we can't deal with anything present or new, good or bad. We become like that truck that's overloaded. Until it unloads what's holding it down and keeping it from moving it will stay put, accomplishing nothing for its owner.

We too will stay in one place if we keep thinking of what used to be and do not attempt to make a future for ourselves.

I attended my brother's funeral a few days ago. His memorial service was a beautiful one. Various loved one spoke of their fond memories of him, and seeing his life's story on a slide presentation brought beautiful closure to what I had witnessed earlier in the hospital.

I had stayed awake, unable to sleep, a couple nights before the wake. I was thinking about the condition in which I last saw him. It was not a pretty or desirable scene. He could scarcely get his breath for hours and days. Now that the funeral is over, I can better release him to God.

If I had kept reliving his suffering, I too, may have ended up on the becoming ill because I was unable to rest. That would not be a good thing, nor would it relieve the pain he experienced. I had to try to ease my remembrance of that part of the past and know, instead, that he is indeed in a much better place. "If anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away, behold, the new has come." Corinthians 5:17. What a refreshing and encouraging thought.

Relying on good memories from the past can be beneficial, unless you live your present life within them. You have to keep striving now rather than living in the reality of what went on before. You have to employ those past mistakes, incidents, successes and loves for encouragement or to learn from.

The past is what the word signifies: history, long-ago, earlier period, or what went before. It can never be brought back.

Ellen Shuck holds degrees in psychology, religious education and spiritual direction and provides spiritual direction to people at her office.

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