I think about how many years I wasted, how many bridges I burned, how many relationships I wounded. And I was reminded of all of that, when a friend asked me the other day, “Are you ever worried that your past will catch up with you?”
I think that’s a pretty common thing Christians struggle with. The reason is that when you start to live out your faith, the voices of doubt get pretty loud and aggressive.
“Who are you to tell people about Christ?”
“If the people who used to know you and know what you’ve done could see you now, they’d call you a hypocrite.”
“Eventually, you’ll be found out and exposed as the fraud you really are.”
And rather you’ve written a blog about faith or just tried to do things differently than perhaps you’ve always done them, it’s easy for the specter of the past to haunt the present. There’s a section in Isaiah, though, that is making it hard for me to do that lately.
It’s Isaiah 43:18-19 and here’s what it says:
18 “Forget the former things;
do not dwell on the past.
19 See, I am doing a new thing!
Now it springs up; do you not perceive it?
I am making a way in the wilderness
and streams in the wasteland.
I love those verses because there is so much hope hidden in them. Let’s break them down for a second:
“Forget the former things;”
That’s a command, not a “maybe you should think about doing this.” I often feel guilty for not remembering my past, as if perhaps I should, but here we’re told the opposite. And it doesn’t say, “Learn from them, wrestle with them, figure out a valuable lesson you can take from them.” It says “forget” them.
“do not dwell on the past.”
God knows what we’ll be tempted to do. In this case, it’s obvious: We’re going to struggle with dwelling on the past. With making our home in the past, with defining ourselves by our past. God knows we’ll struggle with that and pleads, “do not dwell on the past.”
“See, I am doing a new thing!”
Don’t you want to hug the Bible when it ends a sentence with an exclamation? This is not something casual or ordinary. This is a new thing! Hope is loud and bright and colorful!
“Now it springs up; do you not perceive it?”
This is my favorite part, because in this we’re told God’s ability to spring it up and change our lives will not be dependent on our ability to perceive it. There are so many days where I don’t see or feel the new thing he is doing in my life, but that matters not. He is doing it nonetheless, regardless if I do not perceive it.
“I am making a way in the wilderness and streams in the wasteland.”
I don’t care how wild your past was. I don’t care about how wasted the wasteland of your life was. Those are the very places God loves to redeem. Those are the very places he puts a way through. Those are the very places he puts a stream.
Sometimes, my past feels big and inescapable. It looms large in my head and my heart, a tattoo that will not fade, a defining moment that cannot be forgotten. But the truth is, the past is not my home. The person in that photo from years ago no longer exists. God is doing a new thing. In me, in you, in us. The old has gone, the new has come!
-From Jon Acuff. entire post here: http://www.jonacuff.com/stuffchristianslike/2011/06/the-past/