Wrestling with the ghosts of your past?
You are not alone. It is hard to shake harsh moments, but God has a plan for each of us who have the courage to look our demons in the face, live as a new creation, and tell about it.
Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; old things have passed away and look, new things have come. Everything is from God, who reconciled us to Himself through Christ and gave us the ministry of reconciliation:
– 2nd Corinthians 5:17-18
Reconciliation is the heart of the mindfulness practice of following Christ. He has asked all His followers, from the time He walked the Earth until this very moment, to drop everything, turn away from all that does not serve our highest good and follow Him. We sometimes believe that we actually know what is good for us and we turn away from the invitation. We then set expectations for our life. We are impacted by public opinion and society’s plans for our lives. We have our health, well-being, happiness and life expectancy to think about. Then there is all the stuff that doesn’t matter filling our psyches: politics, celebrity fodder, family drama, and the gossip that we just cant seem to avoid. It is an understatement to say life is overwhelming.
Jesus knows when we have a lot going on and are about to crumble under the pressure of it all; it is the precise moment when He says: “Follow me.”
Then He said to another, “Follow Me.”
“Lord,” he said, “first let me go bury my father.”
But He told him, “Let the dead bury their own dead, but you go and spread the news about the kingdom of God.”
This seems like a formidable excuse to give to Jesus, you know? This man wants to honor his father with a proper burial, give his family honor by being a good son. But Jesus had something else to offer him, an inexplicable freedom that is so innumerable in value that it makes the shadow of death powerless.
Not even death is enough of an excuse to give when we are being called to the purpose God has planned for us. Jesus calls us, shakes up our lives right when we are getting comfortable. Perhaps that is because we humans, especially the western civilization version, have issues with privilege to the point where we don’t feel like doing what someone else will do for us. Don’t understand what I mean? Take a look at the self-help section of a bookstore and count how many books there are on motivation. We actually have a market for motivational speakers. They make money on our laziness!
My laziness came in the form of sleeping in. I remember times when I would hit the snooze button at 7:00AM – next thing I knew it was noon. The dogs weren’t walked, I hadn’t taken my medicine, my husband was long gone for work. It was like a prison. I really wanted to get up, but morning was very difficult. My mind was filled with all the voices of my past; I was haunted by how tender the sky was– still filled with stars. I mourned the loss of my mother who always made mornings so special. So, in protest, I slept my purpose and gifts away. Can you relate? Here is a verse that can help us all who suffer from too much comfort:
Don’t love sleep or you will become poor; open your eyes so you’ll have enough to eat.
We cannot expect that the Holy One who conquers darkness and death and tiredness and all the poorly excuses, to work for the attainment of peace, would actually take us seriously when we say:
“Meh, I’ll do it after my show is over.”
“Uh…yeah sure.” Not even glancing up, “ohhh…K…Hold on a sec let me send this text…I’m listening.”
But you and I both do this each and every day. There is going to be some time throughout our lives where we will fall short, will not be fully present for the moment He invites us, on the adventure of a lifetime. Thankfully every moment in our life there is an opportunity because Jesus is infinitely loving and ultimately patient; He knows and remembers what it is like to be human.
Jesus asks through the people around us, known and unknown, seen and unseen to follow the less traveled path.
Turn While You have the Courage to Transform.
To turn is to change direction, repent, do something way outside your comfort zone. For those of us that struggle with the need for sameness, it feels like a death sentence. Actually, it is a death sentence. We must die to our stagnant patterns, destructive limiting beliefs, and become quiet, still, and mindful so that we may hear the whisper of God in our ear guiding us on this new terrain. Whether you have decided to follow Jesus in the last hour or have been following Him for the past 20 years, each moment is brand new in your relationship with Him. Each night we go to sleep we die to the day, we wake to the morning, and are born again. Our decisions to turn away from the elements of humanity that cause us to feel separate from God forge new routes on the path. Turning toward The Lord is a landmark on your personal walk and a new beginning to a profound spiritual practice.
Every time you turn away, you create another ripple in the resting waters under the bridge. You become the author of your past. Walking a new path allows you to gain perspective regarding the old path: its pitfalls, peaks, valleys and resting places. We know that life is not a straight line, but sometimes an embattled entanglement. It is, however our own. When we look upon it, we must have the courage to accept it, take responsibility for it, and release it.
While the past cannot be touched, it can grip you and keep you harnessed to its falseness. Moments of success can be just as dangerous to hold onto as moments of loss and failure. The deep truth is that we all want to experience goodness and are afraid that once we have experienced goodness once, we will never taste such sweetness again. So, we dwell on the good times and wish for them to never end. We dwell on the hardships and betrayals, obsessively warning ourselves. As a result we become stuck in the mire of regret, vacillating between aversion and desire. Caught in a downward spiral, we feel the implausibility of the existence of a living God; we think that there couldn’t be such a thing in such a terrible place. This is the pit; this is Sheol – the grave of our own design.
He dug a pit and hollowed it out but fell into the hole he made.
– Psalm 7:15
Even in the darkest of places, we can be guaranteed that Jesus has been there and also dwells there. And when we can’t see Him, His light is stronger. He has overcome the pit, despair, the grave – all of it. He is overcoming it effortlessly right now as He has taken His rightful place next to the Father who sent Him. And if you have a tiny mustard seed of faith while in that dark pit, close your eyes and tightly hold onto it. You will see Jesus holding out His hand, tears brimming His eyes as He smiles. “Follow me,” He holds out his hand to you and pulls you into a loving embrace.
When I imagine Jesus doing this for me in my darkest moments, I envision Him saying “C’mon, let’s blow this joint!” Who else would do that for me but The Way, The Truth and The Life?
Indeed, it was for my own welfare that I had such great bitterness; but your love has delivered me from the Pit of destruction for you have thrown all my sins behind Your back. -Isaiah 38:17
Just for a moment, imagine that all our personal baggage (the summation of all the negativity that makes us think we are separate from God) is taken hold by Jesus who lifts it up like it is an empty brown paper lunch sack. He crumples it up and throws it behind Him. It falls into the sky and becomes a star. Wouldn’t that be so very cool?
Well, as fantastical as that sounds, there is a golden nugget of truth in there. In following Jesus, we really can’t carry our baggage with us. Not at all. This is a treacherously narrow path. We are basically scaling a mountain with Him and unfortunately, at some point, none of us will be strong enough to carry our own weight to summit the peak.
This means that God requires our minds and hearts to be infinitely open at the ready, all the time. Even when we don’t like it or want to.
This creates conflict in the hearts of many of us, especially me who is strong willed and wants to know everything and doesn’t want to need anybody.
But you and I must remember, we are in a ministry of reconciliation.
Your Testimony: The Greatest Act of Reconciliation.
As you find yourself standing in two places at once, trying to figure out the best path forward, drop your baggage and let Christ slam dunk it into the galaxy. Take Jesus’s hand and allow the connection to bring you wisdom beyond the shame, guilt, bitterness and anger of all that you once endured and inflicted. While it is very painful, each of us are called to look upon our pasts, connect to moments, own mistakes, feel through forgiveness, and take refuge in the warmth of the Holy Spirit after a breakthrough of release.
Let your eyes look forward; fix your gaze straight ahead. Carefully consider the path at your feet, and all your ways will be established. Don’t turn to the right or the left; keep your feet away from evil.
Proverbs warns us that when we go to opposite extremes – the left or the right, we are susceptible to falling into the pit once again. Being in the world and not of the world means that we walk the middle way with Christ, allowing Him to instruct us on how to establish our ways through Him. This is the invisible path of faith where there is no safety net.
So, as you are following Christ on this hike of your life, you have the opportunity to stand beside Him at the bluff and overlook your former life and see your former self. Close your eyes and see who you used to be. Now look on the path that you took with Jesus. Witness how far you’ve come. That is your testimony.
Your testimony is something that you own. It is your birthright. It is a place in your human experience where the mystery of God is unlocked for all to see:
- It is an offering to God (Father)
- It is a healing story for you (Son/Daughter)
- It is an example for others (Holy Spirit)
Your testimony is a sacred oath of turning homeward; a covenant of triumph.
But Jesus said to him, “No one who puts his hand to the plow and looks back is fit for the kingdom of God.”
God wants you to know that you are worth so much more than the self-punishment of living in the past. Let your testimony be a celebration of continual replenishment in the water of life.