“I like the dreams of the future better than the history of the past.” — Thomas Jefferson
Without realizing it, we often carry something around with us everywhere we go. We bring it out in our conversations, and it shows up in our attitudes. Whatever that thing is from the past may never have really existed, yet its power lives inside us and keeps us from moving forward.
Listen to people talk throughout the day, and take note of where their conversations are grounded—in the future, in the present, or in the past. Where would you guess most conversations draw from?
The answer is the past.
Forget the former things;
do not dwell on the past.
See, I am doing a new thing!
Now it springs up; do you not perceive it?
I am making a way in the wilderness
and streams in the wasteland. — Isaiah 43:18–19
Some of us take our past — and, therefore, stress — with us everywhere we go, towing it along behind us. Why do we do it? It’s familiar to us. It’s that warm and fuzzy bag of stories we like to take out and share with our family, friends, and coworkers. This comfortable past is often our “best friend.” It’s who and what we know best. It’s like a worn-out easy chair or an old pair of shoes that fits us and feels just right. But God commands us, “Forget the former things; do not dwell on the past.” (Isaiah 43:18), lest we miss the new thing He is doing right in front of us!
When people talk about or think about their past, it seems to take on the characteristics of a real-life being. The past cannot breathe, talk, think, or do. However, it is immensely powerful and can take over our future—if we let it. It’s like the sirens on the shore, luring you toward the rocks over and over again. Focusing on the past will certainly limit your choices for the future.
Reflect upon your present blessings, of which every man has many; not on your past misfortunes, of which all men have some. — Charles Dickens
For a lot of people, I know the past holds a difficult childhood, an abusive marriage, or a financially draining job loss. Yet no matter how painful our past may have been, for some strange reason we often choose not to let go. In order to get on with our future and simplify our lives, we must choose to make a clean break and leave the past behind.
There’s an engaging Peanuts cartoon where Lucy is apologizing to Charlie Brown for missing a fly ball during a baseball game. She’s sorry she missed the fly ball and says it’s because she started remembering all the others she missed. “The past got in my eyes,” she says.
Many of us know people who are very reasonable—they have very good reasons for why they can’t move forward in life. Take for instance a person who has endured multiple bad relationships or marriages. He is certain that because of these relationships, he’s stuck in the terrible spot he’s in today. Isn’t it difficult to watch that person once again become attracted to the same type of person with whom he just ended a contentious relationship?
“I’ve got my faults, but living in the past is not one of them. There’s no future in it.” — Sparky Anderson, Major League Baseball Manager
Carrying the past forward to the future will provide us with only one thing—incremental change—in our lives. “Unreasonable” people make a choice to create transformational breakthroughs, without “reasonable” ties to the past.
Each of us has a powerful choice. We have the ability to create our own simplified future by starting with a blank sheet of paper and a heart surrendered to God’s will for our lives.
“We must always obey the mandate — ‘onward, onward, onward.’” — Charles Spurgeon
Choose to leave the past behind, and begin living a life filled with new possibilities!
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• How has holding on to your past put limits on your future?
• What might you need to leave behind or let go of in order to move forward into the future?
• Is there a situation or a conversation from the past that you need to deal with in the present in order to move on to your future?
What about you? Leave a comment on our blog. We would love to hear from you!