I hate it when I make a mess.  Don’t you?  It makes me feel like a klutz, a loser, a failure.  Some messes are accidents – and some aren’t.  Some are random and some are the results of our terrible choices…

I work hard not to motivate people with regret and guilt because I know that it doesn’t work well on me either… but I know that all of us deal with negative memories at different levels.  For some, it’s a rotten marriage; for another, it’s an abortion; and for others, it might be something you said you wish you could take back.  At any rate, we feel the weight of our past hanging over our heads.  The Prophet Joel put God’s people in mind of a mess that the Assyrian army would make of their land:

The land is as the garden of Eden before them, and behind them a desolate wilderness.  (Joel 2:3)

Here are four practical helps for keeping your heart from being defeated by your past:

1. Forgive.  Many are living in the past because they are still chained to it.  You’ll never escape the ugly history until you set it free.  Set yourself free.  Forgive the one who hurt you, abandoned you, shamed you, rejected you.  Let it go and give it to God to ‘take care of.’  It might be the hardest thing you’ve ever done – but it will be the most revolutionary.  Here’s how to Find Forgiveness.

Perhaps you’re the one who needs forgiveness… then – right now, before you read on – bow your head and confess it to God.  To be sure, take the apology as far as the offense.  If it was private, then let God alone forgive you.  If it was personal (between you and a friend or loved one), then humbly reach out to them with a call, a note, an email and ask them to forgive you too.  If it was something more public, then think about how you might display your humility.  Find out how you could show you’ve been changed – and then do it!

2. Forget.  Sometimes forgetfulness comes naturally – and sometimes it doesn’t.  How is it that the most tragic and hurtful things are the hardest to forget?  Why is it so easy to forget the good and yet we remember the ugly negative things?  It’s because we are sinful and cursed beings – but that’s no excuse.  I love what Paul said (Phil. 3:13): “Forgetting the things which are behind and reaching forth…”

3. Forsake.  Today’s gospel is one of ease and lacks a line drawn in the sand – but that’s not Jesus’ gospel.  He was not afraid to call for a commitment and to seriously challenge his followers.  Because of this, many left.  When He called the Apostles, part of their following Him would be forsaking their families and occupations.  When approached by a young, wealthy prince (who said he sought to follow Jesus), Christ demanded that he sell all that he had.  The young man would not forsake – and hence, could not follow. (see Matthew 19 & Mark 10)

4. Follow.  There’s nothing behind to go back to so why do you keep looking in the rear-view mirror?  It’s just a ‘desolate wilderness’ back there.  The ‘garden of Eden’ is ahead of you.  Go forward!  Follow Him into the promised land…  I’m hopeful for a consistent life of victory – surprised by defeat; instead of a life of defeat – surprised by victory.  A life where fear, doubt, and worry don’t plague my mind.

Which of these points is most difficult for you?  Which comes naturally?  (I don’t have a problem forgetting – but I do forsaking.)