Redeeming Your Past

Read: Romans 8:31-39

For the past several years I have been going to the local nursing home every other week to read to the residents. I have covered many books during that time and the one I am reading now is especially captivating.

It is entitled “A Grace Revealed” by Jerry Sittser. Jerry writes about how God redeems the story of our lives. He writes from a very personal experience in which he lost his mother, wife, and daughter in one evening some years ago in a car accident. He was left to raise their other young children.

In the most recent chapter that I have been reading (Chapter 7 entitled “Time, Timing, and Timelessness”) he writes about memories and how they can sometimes be good and at other times keep us from living in the present. Here is what he writes.

“Memory enables us to experience the past, however indirectly, as it unfolds over time. It can’t change the past, of course; but it can keep it alive, if only in the head. In that sense it is a useful instrument. Without memory, we would become products of a past we can’t recall and will never know, and thus strangers to ourselves.”

And then he continues… “But memory does not always serve a useful purpose. At worst, it can actually keep us from living in the present moment. That can happen in at least two ways. For one, our memory can idealize the past so much that we want nothing more than to return to it. We remember the ideal marriage we had until something happened that changed it all… We remember the ideal family we had before… We remember the ideal job we had until… Those memories might be entirely accurate and reasonable. Still, what good is an ideal past if it immobilizes rather than inspires, awakening longing but never leads to fulfillment, makes us wish we could go backward rather than forward.”

Jerry shares some other thoughts before he says, “We have the power to choose how we remember and respond to the past, which enables us to engage the present moment in a redemptive way. How can we remember the past in a way that frees us to live, truly live, right now?

What a great challenge to think about! I encourage you to read this entire book if you get the chance, he has many more wonderful thoughts like that from his own experience that I believe can help all of us in our own experiences.

In Romans 8:37 it says, “In all things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us.” Through the grace and power of Jesus Christ we can truly engage our present moments through the redemption offered to us in Christ. My prayer this week is that all of us would choose to conquer the bad memories of our past in the name of Jesus and live the present and future within his perfect will.

Make it personal: Jerry Sittser’s story is truly a story of redemption in the midst of much pain, struggle, and suffering. If you read his book and his story I believe it can help you to find God’s redemption in your life as well. When he talks about his life now you can truly tell he has found this redemption that he speaks about.

Have a great week,
Glen Rhodes, Minister of Discipling and Community Life, Arthur Mennonite Church