In desperation this weekend, after having canceled our cable service, I watched two “chick-flicks” in a row. They were not new movies; we’ve had them for a few years now, and they were perfectly content collecting dust in some ergonomically pleasing DVD travel case until I called upon them in my moment of escapist need. Neither were they especially my “type” of movie -- I’m more of a “Jeremiah Johnson”/ “Matrix” kind of guy -- but never mind, they got me through, and interestingly, even echoed a similar theme at points: “You can’t go back.”
Okay, so it wasn’t really the theme of either movie, but at different points it came up… In “13 Going on 30,” the main character wakes up one morning to what her life is like at age 30. She doesn’t like the person she’s become, and the results of bad decisions she started making around age 13 terrify her. Knowing she’ll never be able to “go back” to age 13 and fix things, she attempts to undo the damage right where she’s at. Of course, at the end of the movie she actually does get to go back and do things over – but… just ignore that part.
The second movie was called “50 First Dates.” In this film, the main actor (even though she’s a “she,” it’s now politically incorrect to call her an “actress…” Sad, but true.) is plagued with an odd, if not tragic problem – every night, as a result of a car accident, her memories of the day she has just lived through are erased, causing her to wake up thinking it’s the same day she just finished – over, and over, and over. Drat, I guess the point of that movie is that under the right, tragic circumstances, you actually can go back… again and again and again. Hmm, I guess technically her problem is she “can’t go forward…” Oh never mind -- she can’t go back to the way life was before the accident, how’s that? The point is – you really can’t go back – for better or for worse.
You can’t go back home where you grew up and have it really feel exactly like home. Too many people are gone, circumstances changed, or whatever. In Africa with Bill, it was a very bittersweet thing – showing him around places I played during a truly golden time in my life, and seeing the physical changes in the landscape – as well as the clear absence of my friend’s voices echoing off walls and trees and hillsides… it’s an empty place now -- Acts 17:26 …and he determined the times set for them and the exact places where they should live.” – because my time for that place has past.
Not being able to go back can be a good thing too. There are many things that need to stay “back there” in the past – hurts, frustrations, lost opportunities, habits, hang-ups. Leave ‘em there. Don’t keep making pilgrimages back to what might have been, re-living them and breathing new life into them, re-kindling the regret and the anguish, re-stuffing your backpack with old guilt, then trekking it back to the present where it has no rights to be if you are a child of God – leave it back there.
The past is one of Satan’s most useful tools, so don’t let him use it to keep you shackled in any of his 3 favorite dungeons: Guilt, Shame, Fear. The Bible promises that “There is therefore now no condemnation to them who are in Christ Jesus” (Rom. 8:1)! Cherish the lessons learned, but break up with guilt by dealing with the sin that’s the source, once and for all -- 1) Confess it; say what it is. 2) Crossify it; “Thank you for the cross that paid for this sin.” 3) Contain it; remove the means that allow one sin to lead to another. 4) Cancel it; Cancel your date with a guilt trip.
Finally, don’t worry about God getting tired of you coming to him with the same issue or the next issue – Just like “50 First Dates,” while you sleep, something is erased and prepared again for each new day – God’s “memory,” and His “mercies” (Lam. 3:22,23). For God’s children, these are new every morning -- great is His faithfulness! Your time in the past has past; let God do a new work in you today.