Thursday, May 22, 2014

Deal With It

There is a very real danger in changing your story. That danger is this: stepping into the new requires leaving the old behind. Most of us, for whatever reason, aren't that interested in just turning and walking the other way.

One of the reasons for this, I think, is that we've been told we have to "deal" with things. We have to go through and handle our story, work our way through it, work our way out of it, before we can ever truly leave it behind. When the opportunity presents itself to step forward, most of us are held back by this false notion that if we don't deal with our past now, it will follow us into our future.

The notion is false for simply this reason: your past is going to come back to you throughout your whole life, whether you've dealt with it or not. It's going to continually pop up in your narrative, creep into your story no mater how much work you put into dealing with it today. Because like it or not, your story is the foundation for who you are.

But it doesn't have to be the definition of you.

You cannot, today, anticipate every little thing you will ever encounter in your life. You cannot know, this moment, what all the moments to come will bring. You cannot fathom how sometimes, the smallest and dumbest things are going to brush up against your story because it just hasn't happened yet. You don't know. You can try to plan accordingly, but life happens. Whatever you do with your story today is based on today's parameters. Those parameters change tomorrow. They change a week from now. They change a year from now. They change twenty years from now.

The past cannot be handled by "dealing with it" and "moving on." Paradoxically, you must simply move on and deal with it as it comes, constantly redefining and reshaping and redeeming the story that is you. (By the grace of God, of course.)

It's hard. How do you live today without dealing with yesterday? How do you even hope for tomorrow when yesterday is holding you back? The truth is that you will miss every day of your future that you live in your past and one day, you'll come to realize what a waste it all was, and you will mourn every opportunity that you missed. That's the hard truth.

Moving on doesn't mean you neglect your story. It doesn't mean you negate your story. Moving on means you take control of your story, working toward the day when you tell it and it no longer tells you.

It's the difference between depression and determination. If you don't think you can move on until you've dealt with the past, you will spend your life dwelling in the past, trying to make sense of the future. This will lead you down a road of inevitability, where you come to see that things had to turn out this way. That you set yourself up, or were set up, for things to be exactly as they are - like it or lump it. You spend your whole life understanding your story and for what? You've missed the whole thing. There is no victory in a final breath that states, "I almost understand myself." Because in a blink, you will realize you are not even who you thought you were. All of the missed opportunities, all of the forsaken chances, will flash before your eyes and you'll realize how badly you wanted to be a part of those things, and you will curse your past for holding you back.

But if you choose to move on, despite the haunted echoes of the past, you will find a new strength. Suddenly, you're hanging on hope and trying to make sense of the past. This leads you down a road of empowerment. It shows you how you stand on the former things in order to reach new heights. It reveals the way God was working in you to prepare you for this greater thing you're doing. You live right into the life God has created for you and when you reach your final breath, you declare, "I almost understand my God." That's a blessing. You look back and realize all the wonderful things you've been  a part of that for the longest time, you would've said you shouldn't have been. You see all the stuff you've done, all the stuff God has done through you and in you, and you're humbled by the experience. You're thankful for this life. And you thank your past for preparing you for it.

Now, that's all well and good but some pasts...some pasts are harder than others. Some pasts are heavier burdens. Some are not filled with simply this or that; some are infused with trauma and tragedy. There is no more important time to move on and deal with things as they come than a time like this, when the past is a vortex that will suck you right back down into all the things you never wanted to be, all the stories you never wanted to tell. Step forward, step out of it, choose today's story and the grace for yesterday's tales will bring you to your knees.

Because the longer you do this, the more consistently you choose today over yesterday, you choose hope over the horrible, you choose the promise over the past, the more naturally it comes to you until one day, you surprise even yourself.

Your past rears its ugly head, and you don't have to think any more about how you respond. The pain, the grief, the tumult is still real but it doesn't shake who you are. It doesn't define you. Instead, you come at the past from a position of strength, a posture that says, "I can deal with this." It doesn't make it pretty. It doesn't make it easy. But it makes it feel more right. It makes it seem possible. You suddenly realize that you can be - you are - bigger than all of this.

You might even be better than all of this.

I present this as an offering to any of you reading who might have a story. I certainly understand stories; I'm living a hard one. And the one thing that's most profoundly clear to me right now is all the time I wasted thinking I had to deal with the past before I could move on. Profoundly clear because that past I wasted so many years on continues to surprise me, continues to demand that I deal with it again. And you know what? Ain't nobody got time for that.

There are adventures before me. There are journeys before you. It may feel like your yesterday is holding tomorrow hostage, but you are one faithful step away from revealing that for the lie it is. Always, always, make yesterday captive to tomorrow. Tomorrow is the real deal. The promise is truth.

So go ahead and move on. Deal with things as they come up and not as they weigh down. And hey -

It's okay.

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