Nobody gets through life without a past. Everyone God has used, is using now, or will use has a past. You can choose whether to allow the baggage you carry to derail or delay your transformation, or to let it become fuel God uses in that very process. So how do you get past your past? How do you quit looking back so you can experience transformation up ahead?
This is an area where the enemy has often been successful in keeping believers from the transformation God desires for them. Remember, we’re not talking about where you will spend eternity; that was settled when you chose Jesus as your Lord and Savior. We’re talking about living in the freedom, joy, and effectiveness that Jesus makes available to us now, even while we await eternity.
Old baggage forges hooks that may be deeply embedded in your brain. You may have watched your parents respond to problems with violence, anger, or victimhood. You may have experienced bullying, racism, sexual violation, or other abuse. Toxic religion or “Christians behaving badly” may have made a relationship with God harder for you. Addiction, an unhealthy physical lifestyle, or negative thought habits may be your default mode.
How long do you want to allow your past to define you? Today can be the first day of the rest of your life! This is not some self-help platitude; it’s saying with Paul, “But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus.” (Philippians 3:13-14)
How do you do that? These are important steps in getting past your past in the transformation process.
Own where you came from.
Your story is what it is. Your family was what it was. You grew up where you grew up. Stuff happened to you. Not all of your decisions were healthy; some of your decisions made things worse. You learned certain bad habits – sometimes by osmosis and sometimes through your own bad choices. You’ve hurt people, and people have hurt you. Your past doesn’t disappear simply by the passage of time.
In Emotionally Healthy Spirituality, one step Peter Scazzero recommends is evaluating the 10 Commandments of your family of origin. You may be surprised at what you discover. Most adults at some point need to honestly evaluate their history. Not all that history is bad! But without an honest assessment your past is likely to control you much more than necessary. Jesus understands where you came from. But where is He calling you to go now?
Healing is a process. It’s not something that happens to you by default; it’s something you actively seek. In your transformation process you will need to seek healing both for the wounds others inflicted on you and the wounds you may have done to yourself.
To find healing you will need to “go there.” Enter the place in your memory or soul where you are wounded. Let Jesus into those wounded places. Let another human into those places also. (James 5:16) Hiding perpetuates the shame and pain. Letting the light shine into the dark places brings healing.
Only you and Jesus know how long you will need to actively pursue healing. At some point you will need to let things go.
Intentionally choose what to let go of.
In “forgetting what is behind,” Paul didn’t walk away from his commitment to God as a Jew. He DID walk away from seeing Jesus’ life and death as an affront to Judaism, and radically changed his understanding of Jesus as the fulfillment of all God had promised through Jewish history. He let go of the guilt of killing followers of Jesus, and of his previous mode of seeking righteousness through behavior.
What do you need to intentionally let go of? A victim mentality? A definition of yourself others tried to give you? The need to please? The need to be right? Getting your own way? Using anger or some substance to “feel good”? Your right to be miserable? Your fear of others seeing you? Your guilt?
You cannot change the past. But you can choose to let it to.
Commit to learning new ways of thinking and doing.
Letting go of the past is only step one. Next, you must be just as committed to learning new ways of thinking and doing. It’s not enough to say, “I’m not going to think negative thoughts;” you must learn to replace them with healthier thinking. Simply saying, “I’m not going to be angry like my father” won’t work; you must learn new ways of responding to stress or irritation. Choosing to not be a victim is a great start, but it will take your strong commitment to learn how to think and act in new ways.
As you are finding healing, ask God to show you what kind of future He is calling you toward. How would you think, respond, talk, and act if that future were true? Now start thinking, responding, talking, and acting that way in the present. Tweet that. It will take practice! But that’s the beauty of the transformation process God wants to take you through.
Your past only defines you if you choose that definition of yourself. Do the necessary work to find healing, and then focus on the goal God has placed in front of you.