Making Peace With Your Past

by Andy Wood on October 26, 2012

in Ability, Five LV Laws, Life Currency, LV Cycle, Principle of Freedom, Protecting Your Investment

A cathedral in Europe was famous for the large, magnificent, stained‑glass window that was located behind the altar and high above the sanctuary.  One day a violent windstorm shattered that beautiful window into a thousand pieces.  The church custodian was hesitant to discard the fragments, so he put them in a box and stored them in the basement of the cathedral.

Shortly after the storm, a man who had heard about the damage asked for and received the broken pieces of glass.  About 2 years later, he invited the caretaker to visit him in a nearby village.  When the custodian arrived, the man explained that he was an artisan and that he had something to show him.  When the craftsman unveiled his work, the visitor was astonished to see a lovely window fashioned from the broken fragments.  It was even more beautiful than the original.

You can be, too.

Like the shattered window, sometimes we live in the wake of a painful experience that threatens to leave us broken and scarred – an unrecognizable leftover of what we once imagined ourselves to be.

Abundance?  Hardly.

Joyful?  Are you kidding?

I heard a beautiful reflection on that a couple of years ago from a TV show, of all things:

“Scars remind us of where we’ve been, but they don’t have to dictate where we are going.”

But if you intend to reclaim the joy and own your future, it may mean making peace with your past.  And for that, you need the ultimate Artisan.

I find it interesting that when Jesus knew he had the world’s attention, one of the first things He talked about was happiness.  Actually, deep, abiding joy. And there in the Beatitudes, you can find a pathway to peace from a broken, wounded past.

1.  Admit that you can’t change or fix it yourself .

Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.

Literally, this means those who recognize their spiritual poverty.  To recognize my spiritual poverty is to recognize my utter, desperate need for God – not as a one-time act or decision, but as an ongoing process.  I know it sounds like a contradiction, but it’s still true:  the way to make peace with my past is to admit I can’t do it.

And that’s exactly where many people remain stuck.  They keep insisting they can fix it.  They can’t.  You can’t.

2.  Mourn your losses.

Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted.

We don’t mourn well in Church World.  Mourning doesn’t generate offerings or fit the American Christian persona of strength or faith.  Did you ever see Chuck Norris mourn?  Or Ronald Reagan or John Wayne?  Yet the Bible is filled with these things called laments.  Mourning songs.  Hmmm.  Maybe we’re missing something.

To understand mourning, it’s helpful to look at its opposites.  The opposite of mourning isn’t rejoicing.  The opposite of mourning is not feeling at all.  And I know people who are experts at that.  Some people do that by medicating their feelings.  Others do it by finding little diversions – finding ways to numb themselves with busywork or trivia.

What Jesus says in this verse is that it is better to have mourned and been comforted than never to have felt at all.  God offers us something in “being comforted” that leads to authentic happiness – His healing, comforting presence.  In Recovery they call it “feeling your feelings.”  And the closer you get to that, the closer you are to the ministering presence of the Holy Spirit.

3.  Surrender your desire to be in control.

Blessed are the gentle, for they shall inherit the earth.

“Meekness,” or gentleness, means the surrender of your will to the control of a higher authority.  When people go through painful experiences, they fear a repeat of the process.  And for many of them, the only way to feel safe is to try to control their entire world – relationships, decision, other people, and circumstances.

Problem is, you can’t.  Because you’re not God.  And being in control is on his job description, not yours.  And so, when you let Him build gentle strength in you by surrendering your will, something profound happens – your painful past becomes your joyful inheritance.  You are free not to be led around by the gut-wrenching pains of yesterday.

4.  Reorder your priorities.

Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be satisfied.

Most people spend a lifetime hungering and thirsting for happiness, and don’t understand why it’s so elusive.  Jesus said if you want to find happiness, pursue holiness.

Some people spend a lifetime assuming that happiness is found in getting even or somehow outperforming those who visited evil upon them.  That’s actually a pretty hollow victory, if it’s a victory at all.

Want a good definition of righteousness?  Try “right relationships.”  Make that your priority.  Which leads to…

5.  Forgive those who have wounded you (v. 7)

Blessed are the merciful, for they shall receive mercy.

Here’s a great definition of Mercy: Having the same attitude toward other people that you want God to have toward you.

So… how do you want God to view your past?  Especially those big, hairy, audacious mistakes?

Yeah, I thought so.  Do you suppose if He could forgive your past sins, that maybe He could help you forgive the sins of others toward you?  Remember, too, that forgiveness isn’t just a one-time act – it’s a character quality that becomes your lifestyle.

But can’t I just walk away and pretend it never happened?  Only if you believe in ghosts.  And just know that you’ll probably be haunted for the rest of your life.

6.  Purify your heart.

Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God.

Show me a person who is dogged by a past they can’t escape, and I’ll show you somebody who’s double-minded.  Trying to go in two directions at once.  Trying to please multiple constituencies.  Trying to do well at everything.  Constantly pulled in two or more different directions.

To purify your heart is to remove every competing value and priority and focus your life on one thing.  One relationship.  One priority, out of which all else flows.  That’s what it means to have a pure heart.  And that’s where you’ll find the grace to look back at a painful past – and only see God.

7.  Reconcile wherever you can.

Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons of God.

Sometimes making peace with your past means making peace with somebody.  A parent.  A perpetrator or victim (careful here… get some help and guidance from someone wise).  A former friend or employer.

As the Holy Spirit leads you, you may take the initiative to reach out.  But let God take care of the results.  Don’t predetermine how things are supposed to be – you may be disappointed.  Also, recognize that some relationships may well be past reconciliation for any number of reasons.  Put those results in God’s hands as well, then review #1.

8.  Recognize that it isn’t always about you!

Blessed are those who have been persecuted for the sake of righteousness, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.

The persecution Jesus talked about here was “for My sake.”  Sometimes people carry wounds they were never intended to carry, because the One the wound was intended for was Jesus!

Sometimes the pain you received was about somebody else’s hurt or abuse, and they didn’t know what to do with it other than carry their own pain forward.  Recognize that always, always – if they did it to you, they did it to the Christ in you.  And in your spirit, let Him respond to the past for you.

Can you see Him confronting your accusers or enemies?  Can you see Him forgiving those who hated you for no reason or hurt you for all the wrong reasons? Can you see Him loving through you people who don’t deserve loving?  Can you see Him healing you, and giving you the keys to the kingdom?  It’s happening.

Make peace with your past.  You can’t un-live it. But you can release it.  You can’t change it.  But you can redefine or reframe it.  You can’t control what somebody else did.  But you can control whether they still have control over you.

There’s an Artisan at work.  And your heart is His ultimate masterpiece.

Martha Orlando October 26, 2012 at 10:59 am

You have left me speechless with this one . . . I’ve never heard the Beatitudes explained with such clarity as you did here, Andy. Bravo!
Blessings, my friend!
Martha Orlando´s last blog post .." . . . Do I Need to Move . . .?"

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