Do You Have a Past?
“The past is never dead. It's not even past.” This is a line William Faulkner wrote in Requiem for a Nun, and it has prompted many to ponder, what exactly did he mean? Given that the character has a troubled past that she can’t let go of, I think Faulkner is saying that our pasts aren’t in the past if they continue to dictate our actions in the present.
Sometimes there are major mistakes we’ve made or terrible things someone has done to us that continue to control how we live. They shape how we think about ourselves, they direct our actions, and they limit our future. They never stay in the past. Everyday they become our present reality.
If we struggle with this, how do we release our pasts? Quite simply, we do it through forgiveness. As we consider what forgiveness looks like in our lives, let me leave you with four quotes from Lewis Smedes, who has helped many of us learn how to forgive ourselves and others.
Forgiving does not erase the bitter past. A healed memory is not a deleted memory. Instead, forgiving what we cannot forget creates a new way to remember. We change the memory of our past into a hope for our future.
When we forgive evil we do not excuse it, we do not tolerate it, we do not smother it. We look the evil full in the face, call it what it is, let its horror shock and stun and enrage us, and only then do we forgive it.
It takes one person to forgive, it takes two people to be reunited.
To forgive is to set a prisoner free and discover that the prisoner was you.
Forgiveness is not an easy step, but it is a necessary one. We’ll explore this theme on Sunday as we consider what we can do when we lose our way.