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Reinterpreting the Past

October 25, 2014 1 comment

A few months prior to my father’s infidelity, he reached out to me more than he had in the past few years. He started texting more. He offered help. He frequently invited me to spend time with him at the cabin. He asked me out for coffee. He would engage with me in conversations about things we disagreed with and remain in the conversation.

He invited me to do a book study with him. I was not very excited about the book, it just was not the type of book I usually enjoy. Still, with all his reaching out, this was one of the ways I was going to reach out to him. I thought that meeting weekly would be good for us and, even if I didn’t like the book, it provided us some spiritual material to talk about.

It was a good time. We had a lot of really good conversations and I felt he understood more about my view of God and how that shapes the say I see the world. He also shared a lot more of his frustrations with me about other people. From my perspective at the time, he was not sharing his frustrations in a gossipy way, but in a personalized manner about the way things that happened in his relationships with others affected him.*

I also reached out to him. I invited myself on a men’s retreat, even though I wasn’t a part of the church and deliberately engaged with not just him, but also his community. I was enjoying our time together. I think we were legitimately having more fun together than ever before. He was learning to interact with me more like the peer I have been treating him as since 15. I was reaching out to him and he was reaching out to me. I actually enjoyed being with him. I hoped that at some point we might connect at a substantive level.

We were spending more time together and being more deliberate with each other, something felt off. There were times when he was sharing things that were at least somewhat intimate and I was sharing intimate things, but it felt like we were absent from each other. All the appearances of the conversation were that we were connect, but it didn’t feel like we were connecting. It was as if we both reached out our hands to touch each other, and I could see our hands touching, but I could not feel the sensation of our hands touching. Something was not quite right.

The weekend I discovered what was going on I was actually hoping to find out what was going on. I did not think I would discover what I did. I had a few suspicions, but none of them were quite as substantial and heartbreaking as what was actually happening. I did not expect to find what I did. Of course, when I did find out, some of our inability to connect made sense.

But then, I had this problem. He had been reaching out to me. He had been asking me real questions about my life. He had been spending time with me and kind to me and affectionate with me. And then I find out he was trying to cheat on his. And then he abandons me. And later I find out he had been growing distant from most other intimate relationships in his life.

I’m having trouble figuring out how to explain the problem. It’s an emotionally confusing one. I felt good about the way he was reaching out to me and about our conversations and hopeful about our future relationship, but then… all of this. So, my problem is: how do I interpret his past reaching out to me?

Was it that, despite everything that was going on inside of him, he really wanted relationship with me? Did he really care about me? Did he really value me, my thoughts, my desires, my feelings? Was he reaching out to me because he loved me? Or was he putting on a show to hide his heart and behavior? Was he trying to do something good with his relationships so he didn’t feel so bad about his past actions? Was he feeling lonely because he was growing distant from his other relationships because of his sin and so he attached himself more to me as somewhat of an outsider to his daily existence? Did he use me so he didn’t feel so lonely? Was he telling me his frustrations with his life and with others because no one else would listen because they knew better? Did he see the breaking of relationship with others that was coming and was trying to get me on his side before everything came out?

I don’t know. I don’t know why he reached out to me. I don’t know how I should feel about his pursuing a relationship with me. Should I look back and remember fondly the time when he sought after me or should I look back and remember with sorrow the time when he used me? I don’t know. I don’t even think he knows why he did what he did. It’s probably a complex combination of many reasons and motivations.

Life is just like that sometimes. We are often left wondering what happened, what caused it, why it occurred, and how we should feel about it. We don’t always get the answers we seek. I’m sure I could look back at what happened and come up with a few different explanations as to what occurred and why in order to make sense of the whole situation to myself. But, even if I did that, I still wouldn’t know for sure. I might be able to make sense of the situation, but just because something makes sense doesn’t mean it’s true. I don’t know that I’ll ever have a real answer.

And that’s okay. It’s okay to have things remain unresolved. It’s okay to not know all the answers to the “why”s. I’m okay looking back and saying, “I just don’t know” because of where I am in the present. I’m okay. I’m good. Because I am not alone. I am not unloved. I am not undesired. I am not unwanted. I am as close to my true Father as I have ever been, and He will never leave me, never stop loving me, and never stop pursuing me.

*In case you are reading this and suspect you might be one of the people who he was expressing frustrations about, I want to make a few things clear. First, when people are expressing negative things about other people to me, I usually consider it to be people venting their frustration and putting words to what was frustrating to them about a situation. I don’t really trust their perspective on the circumstances or others. I do not then proceed to think poorly about the person they are talking about. If you were talked poorly about, I think no differently about you than I did before you were discussed.

Second, I very frequently make suggestions on how the person venting can see it from the perspective of those they have a problem with. I nearly always suggest they express their feelings and frustrations to that person directly in a loving manner. I regularly defend those who are being talked poorly about, but are not there to defend themselves, even if I have never met the person (ask my wife, sometimes it drives her crazy :). If you think you might have been talked poorly about, I probably defended you, I most likely provided a way of seeing things from your perspective, and I assuredly suggested he speak to you directly.

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Categories: Family Disruption Tags: , , ,

For My Stuck Friends: The Past Suffices

August 19, 2011 Leave a comment

As of late, St. Peter has reminded me of a few lessons that I’d like to share. I want us to be reminded together by some of the insight our brother has for those on the verge of transformation. I hope these messages become a hopeful, encouraging, exhortative, freeing, and empowering for those of us who have been about to reach the crest of the hill for a long time, but can’t quite seem to get there. May these simple insights by a fellow struggler and fellow follower aid you as you journey toward transformation into the character of Christ.

Peter tells us: “live for the rest of time in the flesh no longer for human passions but for the will of God. For the time that is past suffices for doing what the Gentiles want to do, living in sensuality, passions, drunkenness, orgies, drinking parties, and lawless idolatry.” (1 Peter 4:2-3)

That’s the message I have for you. The time that has already gone by, that which is behind us, that time was enough time to engage in sinful behavior that those of the world want to engage in. That’s enough time living as ungodly sinners. You’ve had enough of sin. You’ve had your fill of these sorts of behaviors in the time past when that was what you did. You have drunk deeply enough of ungodly passions and devilish desires. The past suffices for that behavior. The sin of your past is adequate.

To those who have ears to hear, you already know this truth. You already know where your sin has gotten you. Your pastime of sin has given you enough experience of it. You know its adrenaline rush. You know its promises of fulfillment. You know its draw of independence. You know the pull of the wondrous unknown of completely shameless and self-centered living. And you know the letdown. And you know it empties rather than fills. And you know that sort of independent freedom is a form of brutal slavery. And you know that shameless self-centeredness leaves you in a very small world that you can only escape by feeling shame and focusing on the forgiveness of your Savior. The past is sufficient. The sin of your past is sufficient. The time in the past that you have spent living in the way of destruction and godlessness is enough time. The past is enough, and you don’t have to live in it any longer.

“Live for the rest of time in the flesh no longer for human passions but for the will of God.” This is the beautiful alternative. No longer stuck in this small world of twisted human desire, the world of our past, we can live in this ginormous beautiful world of the will of God. For those who have eyes to see, you can visualize an approximation of this illustrious kingdom and you see that this is the world you want to live in. This is the way you want to live in. This is the world you want to help create. This is the transformation of character you want, one that is fitting for this kingdom. And you want to be a man or woman exemplifying this sort of kingdom character from now until the end of time.

So back to our simple message. The sin of our past is enough. The way we used to live in is enough. And this way is not consistent with this new kingdom. You know this. The way of our past will keep us from reaching the summit of the hill on our journey toward transformation. I know you’ve had enough of sin’s empty, deceptive promises. You know you’ve had enough of that bullshit. Let the sin of the past suffice. Leave it where it belongs, back there in the past, that for the rest of time you might live for the will of God.

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

February 3, 2010 4 comments

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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