Home > Some Different Thoughts > Some Different Thoughts On The Past: Maybe It’s Not The Problem

Some Different Thoughts On The Past: Maybe It’s Not The Problem

This is provocative. It’s a little bit stronger language than I would typically use because I want it to be a little provocative. A lot of people I know at a lot of the churches I have been at have a strong focus on trying to find a reason for their current behavior, emotion, attitude, perspective, etc in some past event or past relationship. It’s been happening for a few years in a few different communities of believers. Somewhere around 80% of my Jesus loving friends seem to be convinced that the past is a key to spiritual growth. Most of that group would say it is an absolute necessity. It’s not really talked about, it’s merely assumed that one has to deal with their childhood in order to be like Jesus today.

I don’t discuss the topic much with people. I seem to talk with them a lot about their past and how they’ve been affected by it, but I don’t talk about the underlying presupposition that focusing on one’s past is necessary or even helpful for growing in likeness to Jesus. I just listen to them talk. I don’t mind it. I don’t even mind the idea that the past is so central to transformation. I just don’t actually believe it. And it confuses me, because I don’t think it’s a central theme of Scripture. I don’t even think a very strong case can be made for it in Scripture. And its frustrating when people insist that I need to deal with my daddy issues, ask about sexual abuse, and tell me I have some deep seated issues that I need to start looking at to figure out where they come from.

Being soaked in an environment like this and being a pragmatist, I’ve tried to do these things that involve looking back at my past. I’ve tried to humor friends and family by trying to humbly engage in something I didn’t actually have much respect for. It didn’t really do anything. I thought more about some of the influences that have contributed to some of my habitual sins and areas of difficulty in following Jesus. But seeing influences doesn’t change actions. I never thought that my past is why I am the way I am and have struggled with sins I have. My sinfulness is not the fault of things that have happened to me or things that I was missing in my life as a child. It’s mine!

Maybe the lives of some people really are simply products of their pasts. It was inevitable that they would sin in area A or struggle in area C or be impatient in area Z, but not for me. I am not as good as those people. I have had a choice at every point of sin in my life. And I have chosen wrong. I really am that bad. I have absolutely nothing to attribute my mistakes to but my own dirty heart and my own foolish decisions. That’s it. When I sin it is only because I am proud and selfish, even though I wish I could attribute it to something else. However, taking responsibility for our own actions is essential to understanding the immensity of God’s love.

I do believe that thinking about and discussing some of the more formative relationships of the past can help people feel like they have a more cogent view of themselves. Although that’s somewhat useful in gaining a self perspective that feels like it fits, which I think is important. I look at my past, and while I know it has shaped me, I also see myself as a different person than the one that experienced what I experienced, than the one that did what I did. If I truly become a new creation through Jesus, then I am not the same. If Jesus has truly freed me, then my past experiences and my past person has no necessary effect on me. If the presence of the Spirit of God in our lives truly is all Scripture says it is, then figuring out our childhood or discovering reasons for our habitual relational interactions isn’t really necessary. What is necessary is that we humble ourselves, crucifying ourselves with Christ so that we no longer live but the Messiah lives in us. True life is not about getting over what is behind, but Jesus in us now as we strain to humbly live for all there is in front of us… thoughts?

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  1. February 5, 2010 at 4:53 pm

    I would agree that the way I respond to situations now is up to me. It is my own personal responsibility to pursue my own dirty heart or to pursue the heart he has given me.
    I think that a lot of what goes on in a person now is the result of personal decision not affected so much by their past as it is with their present.
    With that said, there is a tying of the two. My personal story had a significant pain. I struggled with a dirty heart bent specifically to one side, this was not so much as a direct result of the pain as a confusion of my identity and that of God. The necessity of delving into the past was for the benefit of clarification. My past is not who I am, has never been who I am. I am who He has made me to be, my actions often speak against that. This undermining of God’s identity for me is not due to the past, it is me playing out a part of my past and choosing directly to go against Him.
    I feel that fundamentally I agree with you, yet have spent a lot of time with this ideology and have at times tried to utilize it as solution for others and a scapegoat for myself. I do however feel that in specific cases it is very important to shed light on what has happened as a means to understand why we believe certain things about ourselves and about God.

  2. February 5, 2010 at 5:37 pm

    Thanks for the comment. I was hoping you would say something because I know how much delving into the past has been beneficial to you. I definitely was speaking a little more anti-looking at the past than I really feel, hoping to stir something and get people thinking about their own thoughts more.

    I definitely think there is something to say about being vulnerable and open with thoughts, emotions, and events that have felt shameful for one reason or another. And I think it is absolutely necessary to give everything to God that has happened or that we have done. Delving into the past often does both of those things for people. They are forced to let some things in the open that they have been clinging onto that has negatively affected their lives and their views of God. Sometimes there are areas where we think God doesn’t belong or events where we think He was absent in which we need to let Him in or recognize.

  3. February 5, 2010 at 9:12 pm

    You really got me thinking, I put this up a moment ago,

    http://calebgerdes.blogspot.com/2010/02/forgiveness-past-and-grace.html

    Thanks a lot man.

  1. March 30, 2013 at 6:55 pm

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