Getting past your past

nextstepsA few weeks ago, we had a powerful guest post from a man who struggles with porn addiction. He talked with great remorse of how it had impacted his marriage; and of the battles he and his wife continue to face.  One question keeps coming back to me and it’s this: how do we move forward when we can’t undo the past?

This is something I have had to think through – and still ask.  For years I routinely lied to Glen to protect my eating disorder. I made choices that harmed and isolated us both. When I was sick, I could close my eyes to it.  But as I sought to recover, one of the hardest battles was facing what I’d done. I felt crushed by guilt – and the knowledge that no matter what I did, I just couldn’t fix it. If I never did anything bad to him ever again – and apologised with each breath – it wouldn’t be enough.

One solution was offered by certain counsellors.  They told me in essence I was a good person, that I hadn’t meant to cause such damage and that I was in the grip of a sickness I couldn’t control.  There is truth in it – but it’s not the whole story.  Once I reached my target weight, the inner ‘good me’ didn’t emerge.  Sure, I was better. But the fact is – I still hurt my husband and the people I love.  It’s just that I did it in different ways.

The counter-intuitive truth is this – in order to get past my past, I had to go deeper with my guilt. Deeper than an eating disorder. You see I’ve said ‘No’ to more than food, and my husband or friends. The guilt I’ve felt has often been misplaced – but it’s also been real. Before I apologise to my husband for an eating disorder, I have to talk to God about my heart. And all the apologies and resolutions and flowers in the world won’t make it right.

There’s only one way He’s offered to make it right. And it’s got nothing to do with my sniveling apologies or earnest resolutions. It’s got everything to do with a bloody corpse who hangs there as the only way to make peace. I look to the cross and it drives me down further than I’d been prepared to go. I’m so bad He had to die for me. But I look again to the cross and I’m raised up – I’m so loved that He wanted to die for me. This is the way to get past your past. I must go down before I can come up again. I have to see that the cross is necessary for me. And then I see that the cross was given for me. When we remain in the shallows, we never move on. When we allow Jesus to take us to the depths, then we find the way forwards.

Jesus isn’t just the catalyst for recovery from an addiction.  Or a help to marital communications. Or an aid for more successful living. He’s actually life. And without Him – the past stays present.

It takes the death of God – and nothing less – to deal with my heart.

9 thoughts on “Getting past your past

  1. Yes, and presumably without putting Glen on a pedestal, he is not ‘all good’ either. So that makes two of you. Ultimately we are all in a similar place are we not? Cowering or otherwise, bending . All sounds a bit serious and then i think well there must be the enjoyment of the simple pleasures in life, otherwise we really are sunk. Glass of wine anyone?

  2. Yes Tim. Why not two or three or four…Alcohol does work well to mask the pain we all must live must live in! However so does starving and barfing and screwing strangers and shooting up with drugs and then cutting those same arms to ribbons.

    Some even say they molest little kids just to get a bit of relief from all this…seriousness.

    Maybe anything goes and we don’t owe anyone a damn thing.

    Maybe this is why world soooo loves Christians and why the church has so much to offer the hurting.

  3. Tim – yes, we’re all in a similar place. But half the time I think I’m better and half the time I think I’m worse. Very hard to get a right perspective: I guess that’s why I need reminding to look from myself to Him. And a cheeky glass of red helps too..

  4. E, yes, but also the perspective that can help, on a lower level than the one you suggest, is the remedial one of concentration on an act of creativity eg. painting, photography etc, where one is not centred on oneself at all. The focus is on the act of doing, of creativity, and could involve the wholesomeness of , say for example, singing in a choir where the group dynamic is more than the sum of the parts (individuals)….Therefore my message is , for goodness sake , just make something!!
    C – As far as I can understand you, you sound rather vindictive, and carried away. I do not advocate going beyond decent (lawful) boundaries, thankyou very much.

  5. Tim-
    I have nothing against creativity or the enjoyment of the simple things in life. But as a coping method for dealing with the damage one has inflicted on others, it misses the point of the gospel. His grace is sufficient for our forgiveness, but should we sin more so that grace abounds? God Forbid!

    Do we owe those we have hurt, or is it all okay because Jesus paid the price?

    I am not assuming that you are advocating “the abounding of grace”, but to deal with “serious” things by ignoring them or hiding from them, leaves YOUR role in allowing Jesus to live through you incomplete.

    There is another word for this. It is “dissociation”: A separating of one’s self from trauma or unpleasantness. When I am trying to dodge the very real consequences of my own sin I create my own little world, a fantasy, further addictive behavior. A way to separate the “bad” me who sins and does the damage, from the “good” me who enjoys wine, song, and creativity. In other words, double mindedness.

    I will add that Adolf Hitler enjoyed creative painting and the simpler things of life. Presumably he had a lot of seriousness to contend with.

    God sees every wicked thing we do to one another. He sees all the hurt we cause to his children. Praise be that He doesn’t take the attitude of separating Himself from that pain and enjoying the “simpler things in life”. We are to seek to be ever more like Him. This is the essence of repentance.

    Tim, please know that I’m not attacking you, but the idea of hiding. Lord knows I have done more than my share of it over the years and it was actually part of my own self soothing addiction.

    Emma was right. We are so bad that it takes the death of God. There is no healing in us or in those we perpetrate against apart from him. Not in wine, not in creativity or in a myriad of substitutes. The question is will we take responsibility and let Jesus live through us, or would it be better that a millstone be hung around our neck?

  6. i have avoided my evil by burying it and pretending and creating personalities.. That much im divorced from reality and people. I consider suicide every day. I have no true faith. i can hardly function.

  7. Michelle – we don’t know ourselves, but Christ knows us and He loves you and He loves me; even though we’re messed-up and broken and blind and at the end of our strength. And even though we have the tiniest, weakest, most struggling faith – that is enough because He has hold of us.

    I was reading Psalm 139 and verses 7-12 struck me afresh:

    Where can I go from your Spirit?
    Where can I flee from your presence?
    If I go up to the heavens, you are there;
    if I make my bed in the depths, you are there.
    If I rise on the wings of the dawn,
    if I settle on the far side of the sea,
    even there your hand will guide me,
    your right hand will hold me fast.
    If I say, “Surely the darkness will hide me
    and the light become night around me,”
    even the darkness will not be dark to you;
    the night will shine like the day,
    for darkness is as light to you.

    Dear sister, I’m sorry life is so painful now. It will not always be this way – but in the meantime, we need others to help us live. Are you part of a church community and is this something you can consider? x

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