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My family and I just made it home from one of our semi-annual trips visiting my relatives in the great state of Kentucky . Since I’ve been removed from the South for more than a decade now, many of the traditions that were once a part of a daily living, now are mere traditions that I look forward to enjoying with my family.
Traditions such as:
*Eating EVERYTHING fried in bacon fat.
*Sitting on the back porch in a rocking chair “catching up” about old friends. (Catching up is a nice way of gossiping)
*Celebrating everyones birthday at the same time simply because you want a reason for a BBQ.
*Reminiscing about how things once were.
While we reminisced about the good ole days and talking about grade school photographs, my mom pulled out my third grade picture (see above) from South Christian Elementary School. As I gazed at that poor kid sporting a mullet with no front teeth and proudly wearing a Batman Returns T-shirt, I couldn’t help the walk down memory lane.
What thoughts prompt your stroll into the past?
A picture? A song? Smells take me back faster than most things. All I have to do is sniff a warm tomato fresh off the vine and I’m instantly transported to a time when life was simple as I helped dad in the garden.
But not all memories are good and worth remembering. I’ll be the first to admit that when I walk in the Walmart of my hometown, I get nervous that I’ll see someone from my childhood that I’m not looking forward to seeing. You know what I’m talking about: butterflies in the pit of your stomach…palms sweating…eyes racing to see who you might recognize so you can quickly dart behind a rack full of Duck Dynasty t-shirts.
And then there are those few memories that continue to haunt you to this day. It’s what “they” did to you. Or what “he” said to you. It’s what “she” failed to do. It’s how you were hurt as a result of someone elses actions. And these memories seem to not only affect your mood, they almost have a sense of control over you. You’re probably not very comfortable thinking about it right now as you are reading; but, please, read on.
Here’s what I know about you: you have a past. And your past has made you what you are today. And while your past affects who you are today, your past does not have to determine your tomorrow.
Your past makes for wonderful memories; but, its a terrible master. (Tweet that!)
If there are moments of your past that continue to haunt you, here’s a few suggestions that can help free you from a long ago burden:
Nothing has had more impact on my present like forgiving my past. I once heard that refusing to forgive someone is like drinking poison and expecting it to hurt someone else. When you harbor unforgiveness against someone, you’re not doing anything to hurt anyone except yourself. Bear in mind, forgiveness is not letting someone off the hook for what they’ve done. Forgiveness is simply allowing God alone to be the judge for their wrong-doing. Jesus said in Matthew 6:14, “For if you forgive men when they sin against you, your heavenly Father will also forgive you.”
2. Write a letter.
Take out a piece of paper and a pen and write a letter to the person who has wronged you. Don’t worry about finding an address or buying stamps. This letter is for you. As honestly as you can, write exactly how you feel. Tell the person what’s on your heart and how your life has been shaped by their past actions. Get everything off your chest as if they were sitting across the table from you. It will feel therapeutic to write. And once you’ve written everything you can think to say, burn the letter. Destroy the emotions that have ravaged your heart for so long. Allow your emotions to and the way you feel towards the individual to go up in smoke like the words on the page.
3. Confess it.
James, the brother of Jesus, said in James 5:16, “Therefore confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed.” There’s something about bringing your secrets out of darkness and into the light that limit their power over you. For too long you’ve allowed your past to haunt you because you’ve kept it locked deep within you. Find someone you trust and put your past into words. Shedding light on it will not only bring freedom; it will also offer a new perspective. Maybe your past isn’t as bad as you’ve always thought!
4. Give it a funeral.
Much like burning a letter, another form of therapy that may help you overcome the overwhelming emotions is to host a funeral. Funerals offer you the opportunity to process grief in community that leads to taking your first steps forward in life without the one you’ve lost. Giving your past a funeral allows those emotions from your past that have continued to hold you back to be buried for good. Literally bury a written letter to your past. Dig a hole and bury the photo that reminds you of your past. Give it a farewell celebration. Invite a trusted loved one or two to join you. Then start the grieving process of moving forward with a new outlook on life.
If you’re afraid of your past, understand this about fear: Fear hates community. If you bring real Biblical community in on what you’re wrestling with, you’ll soon discover power in numbers.
Have you overcome something from your past? Help our little community by sharing how you overcame something difficult from your past. Perhaps your story will help someone else become an overcomer!