Bringing the Past into the Present in a Good Way

There are a few things that Holy Spirit has taught me, that I haven’t fully put together yet. Maybe you can help.

A number of years ago, I was going through some really tough times. Divorce was a possibility. The impact to our 3 year old was hard to look at. I was desperate for a miracle. I wanted to change to be what my wife wanted so that she would stay, so that we could be a family. I was tired of being broken, regardless of the consequences. I was tired of pretending, and sometimes hoping that I was better than I was.

I went away to a retreat on healing. But the only way that the Lord would let me go was if I promised to play, and promised to not work on myself. It was in a beautiful location. So I agreed. Most of the other participants thought it was weird. My roommate, who was a pastor was actually a little condescending and condemning over it. But, I needed to follow Jesus. And He had led me into situations before where people doubted my relationship with Him, and people seemed to reject or shame me for taking a different path.

I had brought at least my bible, and one book along with me. But most of my time, I took walks in the mountains, and talked to the other participants when we took meals together. I was pretty open about how hurting I was.

So the Lord led me to Phl 1:6 “For I am confident of this very thing, that He who began a good work in you will perfect it until the day of Christ Jesus.” (NASB)

Holy Spirit asked “Is this the day of Christ Jesus?”

Well, no.

“So is the perfecting done?”

Well, no.

“So, if you are living, you aren’t done yet.”

Well, yes.

So, I will live my life not being “there”, but being here. But that doesn’t mean that I can’t be thankful for yesterday, and for the good times in my marriage, in school, in growing up, …

Then I heard Jonathan Welton teaching on Rom 8:38-39 “For I am convinced that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor any other created thing, will be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.” (NASB)

He pointed out something that I had missed. The past is not part of the list. Things present, and things to come cannot separate us from the love of God, but the past might.

I know the common expression of “so-and-so is living in the past”, which usually means that they are ignoring the present. And Mat 22:32 says “‘I AM THE GOD OF ABRAHAM, AND THE GOD OF ISAAC, AND THE GOD OF JACOB’? He is not the God of the dead but of the living.” So I can see if you are not in the present with Him, you may not be experiencing the love that He has for you now.

I also learned something about the past as I approached grieving. God had given me grace for faith in a way that is kind of unusual. I should also say that I don’t cry much at all, except when I see God’s mercy. I know that is an area that I want Him to heal, and believe that He will heal. But, I also use, possibly misuse my faith to avoid grief and sadness. I can be sad of how my son was hurt in the divorce, and by my own brokenness in various ways. But, God can heal him, and God can redeem those years

Joel 2:25 “Then I will make up to you for the years that the swarming locust has eaten, the creeping locust, the stripping locust and the gnawing locust,
my great army which I sent among you.” (NASB)

And Rom 8:28 “And we know that God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose.” (NASB)

So, since the last chapter wasn’t written yet, how is anything really lost.

Then, the Lord showed me how I had lost the past. My son will not be 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12 … again. He my be healed. But I have lost forever the opportunity to sit with my wife at his graduations from kindergarten, elementary school, … and reminisce, and hope and dream. The things that couples do to celebrate their children together. I am not saying that as single, and remarried parents we didn’t try. But there are some things that are a part of His plan that I missed. Those are lost.

That doesn’t mean that I don’t believe that He has a good plan for me, but it doesn’t include some things that other friends enjoy. I can grieve the loss of connection and attunement from those shared experiences.

So, we can’t change the past, what is missing, will always be missing, and what was present will always be present.

And here is where I get a little weird on you, probably.

I believe that God doesn’t waste our past. By having been through a bankruptcy, I know what it is to be financially trapped. I can have empathy and compassion in those areas. Because I have 20 years of history as a single dad, I can say what the social isolation looks like for a single dad, even at various stages in life.

Rodger Woodworth, once taught on 2 Cor 4:7ff, and said that the “treasure in earthen vessels” part of 2 Cor 4:7 seems to refer how they stored perfumes of the day. They sealed it in earthen vessels which you broke to release the fragrance. He said that broken lives are often the most fragrant.

I have seen that. There was a girl in my son’s class who was extraordinarily tall. And my son was growing steadily but slowly. This girl reminded me of a girl in my own past, when I was in college. She was beautiful, and graceful. And she was sweet. I thought I was a turd at that time in my life, so I only dreamed, and never dared approach her. She was about 6 ft 5 in tall. A full 6 inches taller than me. It was later that I realized that her height probably what what enabled her to be so beautiful, especially the beauty that came from compassion, and sensitivity. Don’t get me wrong, physically, she was amazing, but her heart was something else.

So, in early high school, I suggested that he get to know the very tall sweet innocent girl in my son’s class who may have towered over him by a head. I said that when adversity comes, even when it is just in size, and not fitting in, we are given grace to grow, but also have the option to grow bitter, or numb our pain. This girl seemed to have received the grace to grow. She followed Jesus, liked horses, loved music, and was good at math, just like my son. He had different adversity. And he made many choices to receive grace, and grow, and follow Jesus.

So, our past, with all of its hurt, and missed opportunities, and confusion, is a medium that the Lord Jesus can work into a wonderful work of art.

Some people emphasize that we must be willing to suffer, almost like we need to grit our teeth and steel our will, and wince. I have found that what is best to do, is to ask Holy Spirit for help in seeing Jesus in the suffering in our past, so that we will know His faithfulness in any suffering in the present, and in our futures. That is another way to allow Him (who was and is in our past as well as our present and future), to bring our past into the present.