Published on October 3rd, 2019 | by Nina Pulley
Past or Future? Settling the Past While Looking Towards the Future with Hope & Expectancy
So, this past weekend I couldn’t stop thinking about someone I cared about deeply. Someone I undoubtedly love, but who is no longer a part of my everyday life.
What did I do? I worried. I suppressed the feelings. I tried to think about something else all the while trying not to think about the pink elephant in the room.
That had me thinking about all of it ‒ or as may in my generation might say, “all of the things.” No, really, I was reviewing everything that had brought me to that point: high school, college, and all of my past relationships. Did I do anything right? How could I have made so many bleak, brash choices so quickly and all at once, one after the other? It would’ve been safe to say that I was spiraling, both in the past and the then-present.
A question arose within me, after much consideration: how does one move on from a past relationship or experience, especially when they’ve made mistakes? It is equally as difficult to forgive someone when you’ve been hurt, but how does one forgive themselves? How does one settle all that creeps up from the past, even when you think you’ve made up your mind to be optimistic and future-oriented?
Well, I’ve found there are a few things you can do, but the truth is, it won’t be easy. So many applications, devices, and amenities made available to us in our consumer culture make it hard for us to stick to a plan if it can’t be achieved in less than thirty minutes. Our attention is being pulled in literally every direction that might potentially make someone money, and we cry out for a moment’s worth of peace and tranquility, signing up for detoxes, spa days, and yoga retreats like they’re a dime a dozen (and we both know that’s not true.)
The first thing you can do is be honest about your feelings, and come to the Son with them. Not ruminate on them, but not suppress them either. Ask for help if you are not happy with the way you feel.There is no use concealing something from a God who can see everything and knew you before you were in your mother’s womb. Jesus says:
“Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest” (Matthew 11:28).
Realize that there is nothing too big, nothing too strong, nothing too bad, nothing too heinous, or extraordinary, that God doesn’t already know about; there is nothing God can’t forgive if you are willing to come to Him with it, realizing that you are just another sinner, someone who has fallen short of the glory of God, which, at some point, we all have. We like to think that we are perfect in our humanity, but the truth is, we all have something we can perfect ‒ in ourselves and in the way we live. If we can be kinder, that is one way we can improve. What is one way you’d like to improve, and how can you ask God for help in improving your attitude and expectation for that?
Another thing you can do is realize that you may have too high of an expectation for yourself. Everyone makes mistakes, and you are one of those people. You may look back and wish that everything could’ve been perfect, that you could’ve been perfect, well-behaved, meeting everyone’s standards, and just a better, stand-up human being. If you weren’t and acknowledge that you’d like to change, that’s enough for you to start moving forward and start living the life you dreamed. It’s not too late. It’s never too late.
I went through a depressive time in my life where I thought I wouldn’t ‒ couldn’t ‒ make it through, but God proved me wrong. This year, the year following the darkest time in my life, has become the best in my life. I am more aware, more sensitive, more hearing, more patient, more real with myself than I’ve ever been. And I notice God’s handprint in everything now ‒ everything. There is so much to be grateful for on a daily basis it’s amazing. So one thing that can get your mind off your past is to drink in the present. The beauty in everything, in the little pebbles in the concrete, in the movement of the clouds, even on a cloudy day, in the laughter of a child, in the sinews and veins in a grandmother’s hands. There are countless things to be grateful for ‒ to root you in the present and help you to be grateful for what’s ahead.
The last thing you can do is trust that better things are ahead. I know you’ve probably heard this thousands of times, but truly, the best really is yet to come. Your best days are ahead of you, and they’re bound to improve exponentially as time goes on; things always get harder before they get better.
So, be encouraged: if you’ve made mistakes, ones that are particularly hard to forget, you’re not alone. There are three things you can do to help root yourself in the here-and-now and look forward to all of the exciting things that are waiting for you. The first: be honest about your feelings and take them to God knowing He’s already seen them and is able to help you through your situation. The second is to realize that you, too, are human and make mistakes, and to stop looking at your past with a magnifying glass. Realize you made mistakes and that nothing in your past will ever be perfect, except God, who is perfect past, present, and future, and in whom our identity and future is found. Finally, trust that better things are ahead. They really are. With these things, you are able to leave everything behind. Trauma, heartache, everything.