It was dirt roads and wide open spaces. It was riding ponies with my sister, cousins, and a girl up the street—no saddles. Up and down the empty roads…across the fields… a glorious sense of freedom. Our horses' powerful legs pounding steadily over the ground, manes blowing in the breeze. The sun was on our shoulders, and the air clean in our lungs. We felt larger than life upon the backs of our trusted equine friends.
Our senses have a way of transporting us back in time, don't they? For me it's the smell of freshly mown fields or a sunrise spilling over a tree line that causes the morning dew to sparkle. It's John Denver songs that have me sitting at my dad's feet all over again as he strums his guitar and sings, "Country roads, take me home, to the place I belong…"
This morning, it was the wind. It reminded me of the way it felt when I rode my horse
and the wind would blow in my ears. My chin quivered and the tears rolled as I sat in quiet reflection. It made me think of the family farm where I grew up and about my family and the physical distance that now separates us. It made me think about simpler times, about the loss of my dad, and about how I got to where I am now.
My tears did not flow from a place of unhappiness with my now, but simply out of a nostalgia from the sweet memories of my then. Time has moved me onward to new places, but the past is carried along within, reminding me from where I came.
We learn from the past. We see what worked and what didn't. We see what formed our beliefs or even tainted our thought patterns, which then influenced our choices. Not all the memories of my youth are pleasant ones, as I'm sure you can probably relate. There were some hard things, too. There were moments of wounding and personal failures that made scars across my heart. I carry those, too, though they don't hurt like they once did. I lived them, and I learned from them. I learned to forgive, and I healed. Mostly, I encountered a living, loving God that helped me find the freedom and healing I didn't even know I needed.
Painful experiences have a way of drowning out the positive ones. I'm convinced that we have to begin looking at the past through the lens of forgiveness in order to move forward. We need forgiveness of self and forgiveness of others. Our pasts don’t change, but our perspectives do.
Without forgiveness, we are in danger of living in a seemingly unrelenting past, and I don't believe that's where God wants us to live. The deceiver spins his web of lies that can take over our thought life. We start thinking things like, that person hurt me, so I won't trust again, or, I won't try again because last time I failed. We end up being led around by fear, anger, or hopelessness because we believe the lie that our past dictates our future.
What I once thought were irretrievable possessions, irrevocable mistakes, or immovable mountains, God began to show me were restorative, forgivable, moveable. The giants that seemed so huge were no longer giants but were brought back down to scale. Just as David sang in Psalm 124:2, "If it had not been the Lord who was on our side…" I'm with David! I can attest to the saving hand of God. I can recall moments from my past where I might have been lost for good, had He not rescued me and protected me.
God demonstrates movement through His word. The woman that was caught in adultery and brought before Jesus comes to mind. After that whole exchange before her accusers, she was left alone with Jesus with no one left to condemn her. Jesus told her to go, and sin no more. The accusers left because they saw they had no right to judge her with the knowledge of their own sin fresh on their minds, thanks to Jesus. And when Jesus released the woman, He simply said “go and stop sinning.” It was movement out of the past and into the present. Permission to drop the condemnation and shame and move forward with her life.
Ultimately, I think we need to find a way to move out of our captivating past and begin living in our present. It starts through forgiveness. What does that look like? The testimony of Jesus paints the purest picture of forgiveness one could ever dream up. He knew no sin, yet took all sin upon Himself (2 Corinthians 5:21). He carried our sin straight to Calvary. He saw the joy set before Him.
...we should remove from our lives anything that would slow us down and the sin that so often makes us fall. We must never stop looking to Jesus. He is the leader of our faith, and he is the one who makes our faith complete. He suffered death on a cross. But he accepted the shame of the cross as if it were nothing because of the joy he could see waiting for him. And now he is sitting at the right side of God’s throne. Think about Jesus. He patiently endured the angry insults that sinful people were shouting at him. Think about him so that you won’t get discouraged and stop trying. (Hebrews 12:1-3, ERV)
Lord Jesus, You knew what needed to be done, and You did it. You are our perfect example to set our sights on. Encounter after encounter, You showed forgiveness. The woman caught in the act of adultery…the disciple that disowned You…the mockers that scorned You…the criminal that hung next to You... the list goes on and on, story after story. Forgiveness is a legacy for us to take hold of and a heritage to pass down to future generations. Thank You for being so kind and so good and so steady. Amen.
Author: Kerri Barfield