The PAST has the ability to maintain an incredible amount of control over our day to day lives. It would seem that since they are by definition already over, the events behind us would be nothing more than memories. Truthfully though, what has happened in our lives shapes the way that we live:

Where and how we were raised

The people that were a part of our lives

Both good and bad events

Education

The thousands of unnoticed details of daily life

All of these make us who we are. That is not an excuse, just fact. While it is true that we can make decisions in the present despite our past and that we should never use what has happened to us as an excuse for bad behavior, our past shapes us in ways that we do not often understand. These experiences make us uniquely who we are and give us the individual perspectives and skills that we need to influence our present world. When we come to place of spiritual and emotional maturity there is not one single elements of the past that defines us, but all of the elements work together to make us who we are.

I say all of that to establish a baseline. Thousands of words could be written to break these thoughts down, defining good and bad life experiences and how we have the power to decide who we will be in the present, but that is not my purpose here. The past is real and something each of us needs to address. Your past will influence your life. That’s NORMAL.

There are those events of the past, however, that do more than influence. The relationships and hurts and bad decisions that do not simply inform our present, they DEFINE it! Here is what can happen if we are not careful:

The unexpected and hurtful incidents of our past become the lens through which we view our world.  Because we do not deal with these, we can become lifelong victims of a one time event.

You have either known or been this person! Every real conversation always, sometimes with strange verbal and emotional gymnastics, comes back to the same event of the past. What someone said, or did (or didn’t do) or the loss of someone important, is now a shadow over all of life. The person who lives this way, although they may look healthy on the outside, are fractured on the inside. They are stuck because they are still hanging on to something they should have left behind.

They don’t have healthy relationships because of a past relationship that ended

They don’t get close to anyone because someone that they cared about died

They don’t trust because of how they were treated

They refuse to dream because of “that one time I did and it didn’t work out”

Past hurtful or even traumatic events are real. We should never diminish them or try to pretend that they did not happen. But, we should also not allow them to define who we are! It is incredible to me the number of people who are so wrapped up in their past that they have effectively stopped moving forward. This is nothing more than functional death. Existing without purpose or direction.

So how do we deal with those past events that want to keep us from really living?

Redeem the past and refuse to be a victim!

A victim is someone who is helpless-they can do nothing about their circumstance and are at the mercy of has happened. Victims of past events are unable to move beyond the hurt and emotion of the event. They don’t move forward because every time they try, the past pulls them back. They are victims.

Redeeming the past means that you refuse to allow what has happened to define you, and instead use it for the benefit of others. You learn the lessons and then use them so that others can move forward as well. The experiences of your past lose control and equip you to have an impact in the world that could not be had without them. Redeeming the past is to take something that is worthless and even damaging on its own and deciding that it will be used for good.

We all have those events in our past that do not want to let go. Don’t ever believe that you must let them have control. Refuse to be a victim and redeem your past so that you can move forward with hope and purpose taking others with you.

 

Photo by Lasse Møller on Unsplash

Jeremy Stalnecker is the Executive Director of the Mighty Oaks Foundation which is dedicated to helping America’s military warriors and their families who are suffering from the unseen wounds of combat. While growing up Jeremy’s only goal was to leave home and join the Marine Corps. This dream was finally realized with an active duty commission in 1999 which opened the door to serve as a Marine Infantry Officer during the opening days of the war in Iraq. One month after returning from Iraq, Jeremy entered full-time ministry and eventually accepted a senior pastor role. He later accepted a full-time position with the Mighty Oaks Foundation which brought together his ministry and military experience in a way that allows him to minister to hurting veterans, service members and their families. Along with his wife and their four children, Jeremy works to reach the hurting and provide healing found in Christ.

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