guilt · Spirituality · transitions

Letting go

My son tells me I’m easily ‘guilted’. At a young age he learned that he could usually get his way if he could make me feel even a tiny bit bad about saying no!

 It’s true that I struggle with letting go of real or imagined offenses from the past, a harsh word I said fifteen years ago or a thank you note I didn’t send.  I’ve learned to tell myself that these thoughts are not from a forgiving God, but old mental tapes are hard to erase.

As I’m transitioning into retirement, I’m finding that the guilt baggage follows me. I wake up at night worrying about problems from my old job that are over and done with, things I should have done better or people I could have treated better. These demons love to cavort at night and to remind me of all my shortcomings and inadequacies.

The problem with these midnight accusers is that I start to believe them and then I become stuck. The reality is that we can’t go back and change our past. God may be calling us to do great things for Him but if we are too busy worrying about old failures, we may miss out. Letting go of the past is an important part of moving through transition times.

Paul in the New Testament is a great example of someone who overcame this self-defeating mindset. He knew something about guilt. In his former life as a proud Pharisee, he was not only instrumental in sending many people to prison — which was probably a death sentence in that day— but he stood by and held the coats of those who were stoning Stephen to death. Surely he had sleepless nights as that scene replayed in his mind.

Yet Paul never let his regrets or guilt over his former life keep him from carrying out what he believed God was calling him to do. His letter to the Philippians gives us insight into how he overcame his demons:

Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus. (Phil. 3:13-14)

           Forgetting what is behind. Paul kept looking forward, not focusing on what he did before he knew Christ. He had been an important Pharisee and a big-wig teacher of the law before his encounter with Jesus on the Damascus Road. Earlier in the chapter, he gives us a look into what his previous life was like:

You know my pedigree: a legitimate birth, circumcised on the eighth day; an Israelite from the elite tribe of Benjamin; a strict and devout adherent to God’s law; a fiery defender of the purity of my religion, even to the point of persecuting the church; a meticulous observer of everything set down in God’s law Book. (Phil. 3:4-6)

When I read these lines, I wonder if he ever missed that old life. Did he think about his former students with whom he had shared his love of the Scriptures? Did he miss the discussions with his colleagues or the respect he received from the people at the synagogue? What about his family, with whom he presumably cut ties? Did he grieve for those relationships? Certainly, his misguided zeal to eradicate the dangerous Christians must have colored his memories.

Straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal. When I was a child, we moved several times with Daddy’s job. My mother, who didn’t work outside the home, was responsible for the move, getting the new house settled, making sure  my sister and I were situated in school and finding new friends for herself. Mama looked at each new move as an adventure and never complained. If she pined for old friends, she never talked about it. She just did the work in front of her, always optimistic that it would be better than our previous home, and it was. This was true even when she sold her house and moved into an apartment after my father died.

Paul teaches us that at times in our lives, like my mother, we have to make the decision to let go of the past and focus on what is before us. We may have to allow ourselves time to grieve but there comes a point where we have to turn our heads and look at what is down the road. We still have the memories, especially the good ones, but we have to set them aside.

 Letting go of the past, whether happy or painful, can be extremely difficult. We have to be patient with ourselves, keep persevering, and keep praying. God has promised we don’t have to do it by ourselves.

To win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus. Paul admits that he does not have it down perfectly, but he feels so strongly about the work of bringing others to Christ that none of the past even matters to him (v. 8) When we point our faces toward change, no telling what we can accomplish.

Spirituality

Transitioning

Life is changing Under the Magnolia Tree! Now we have two retired folks living here and we have not killed each other yet, although there are days when we just keep out of each other’s way.  Transitions are not always easy.

 But despite the adjustments, I am loving retirement. I love the freedom and the time. I love that my mind is not cluttered with everything that needs to be done. I love that when I get back from an early morning run at 7 am I’m not rushing to get dressed and go to school! I love having time to cook and read and sit down with Keith in the evening.  

Without sounding too melodramatic, I feel like I’m where I’ve wanted to be for most of my life. I feel so at peace being able to study the Bible, write, work at church and make my home a priority.  

This past weekend I attended the Northwest Georgia Christian Writers’ Conference and it was a Spirit filled time of encouragement and reflection. Over and over I heard that I need to listen for God’s leading in my writing, to persevere and to not worry about the outcome. The editors, agents and writers who were there were accomplished and professional, yet at the same time spoke openly about the painful times in their lives, and how God brought them through. I met so many amazing people who are writing books, blogs and devotionals while working full time and raising kids. I felt that instant rapport with them that comes from the Holy Spirit. 

I’ve been praying about how God wants to use my writing and I felt Him speaking to me at the conference. So, I’m making some changes to this blog. Starting in September, I’m doing my first series. Since I’m going through a transition time, I want to look at how some people in the Bible got through changes in their lives. I hope you will take a few minutes each week to read and that you will feel God speaking to you through the lives of Jesus’ mother Mary, Peter, Paul and Moses.  

I’m stepping out on faith to go through the doors God is opening. As Mark Hancock said at the last night of the conference — If it doesn’t take faith, is it worth doing?