Points to Ponder: Reliving or Releasing the Past?
Points to Ponder
Reliving or Releasing the Past?
Everyone has a history, a path we've each taken in life. Along the way there were landmark events, turning points that impressed us deeply. Some were wonderful "highlights of my life"; others left scars. It is true that people of great character and profound wisdom are those who have lived through trials and prevailed. For the people of God, one verse is often quoted:
"And we know that all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose" (Romans 8:28).
But even with acknowledging that comforting truth, we may unwittingly keep working some of those things from the past. We don't leave them in their proper place in history, consigned to the context in which they happened. After all, that was when and where it occurred. Like a piece in a jigsaw puzzle, it only fits there. The puzzle is incomplete and distorted if we try to relocate the piece from that lower left corner to some place in the middle where, for today's experience, it seems to work.
I was prompted to think on this as I was reading the genealogy of Ephraim (son of Joseph, son of Jacob) in First Chronicles. It interests me that after the chronicler's listing of generation after generation, he slows down to focus on a particular occurrence, which the reader (because of boredom) will usually skim over and ignore. "Why is that there?", I think to myself.
Ephraim's sons had tried to steal cattle from "the men of Gath" (Philistines). The Philistines killed them.
"Then Ephraim, their father, mourned many days, and his brethren came to comfort him" (I Chronicles 7:20-22).
What pain is greater than losing your children? And were they committing a crime when it happened? Tragedy.
Then there's this detail:
"And when he went in to his wife, she conceived and bore a son; and he called his name Beriah, because tragedy had come upon his house" (I Chronicles 7:23).
The name Beriah means tragedy. Imagine being born to carry a past that wasn't even yours. How many children are carrying the baggage of their parents because they relocated a piece out of the jigsaw puzzle which is their life's journey and forced it into the journey of life which their children are beginning to put together? We could talk about how the abused often become abusers, but let's think on the more subtle things we all may tend to do.
For instance, when I am correcting my children or trying to teach them something, I hear my dad's voice coming from my mouth. Or, I find a swelling up of impatience bubbling inside of me at certain times when my child's response to instructions is tepid, or whiney. I find myself remembering how I would have responded to my father's direction - and why can't she be like me?
That's not fair, of course. I have to be aware of how I replay my own childhood experience with my father and, without thinking, recast the roles from that historical period to now. The child doesn't get it, because she wasn't there; she didn't see the movie that I have playing back in my mind.
I find that sometimes fear jumps into my outlook today. I recall mistakes I made, or things that happened to kids I'd known in the past. I see my girls doing or saying something that brings that up in my mind and a reaction is triggered within me. Again, I find myself bringing up some past incident and trying to "fix it" in the present situation - where it does not belong. It's out of context. The past, in all of its glories and tragedies, are the foundation stones and interlocking building blocks which form together the person I am now. If any of those things was removed from where, when, and how it had happened, I may not be where or who I am today. It would be great to undo or rewrite some of those things; but then again, maybe not.
If we read on in that family history of Ephraim, all we know of Beriah is that his name tells a story of tragedy in his parents' past. Later there was a daughter who was a builder (v. 24), and several generations later there came a son who served God in a major way, Joshua the son of Nun (v. 27). How could Ephraim have known the good that was yet ahead? As he looked at his boy Beriah and thought of the tragic loss of his other children, how could he know that what was yet ahead would exceed in triumph what had so pained him in tragedy? Answer: he could not know. And neither do you.
Often the blessings which God is working out consists of the broken pieces from your past. It is up to Him to move those pieces and handle them as He wills. We do best when we leave them where they are and learn the lessons they teach. Then, in faith, trust that God's plan will redeem our losses and make good use of our bad choices. There is no fixing what was. Only He who is the same "yesterday, today, and forever" can make it right (Hebrews 13:8); right as He defines right.
"So I will restore to you the years that the . . . locust has eaten . . ." (Joel 2:25a).
(Points to Ponder is a series of occasional articles written by Rev. Dennis Whitmore, Pastor of Hilltop Christian Fellowship of Clear Spring, MD. These articles are also found at www.HilltopChristianFellowship.com.