Trying to back out of my friend’s curved driveway, I had to make several attempts to keep from running over several bushes. Even with a dashboard back-up camera, it was a challenge to maneuver my car safely onto the street without doing any damage.
My friend, seated on the passenger side, admitted she wasn’t very good at backing up either. Her solution was to turn her vehicle around in the wide drive so she could leave the premises facing forward.
How often do we navigate life’s challenges, clinging to our mistakes, regretting our choices and failing to move forward because we haven’t released our past to the One who loves us more than life itself? God never meant for us carry that weight.
Holding onto the past
Letting go is one of the hardest things we face. It’s easier for us to hold onto regrets, mistakes, guilt, failures, hurt, fear, anger and worry than to allow God to use them for His glory.
British author C.S. Lewis once said, “Getting over a painful experience is much like crossing monkey bars. You have to let go at some point in order to move forward.”
Are you a doubting Thomas? Maybe you’re a believer, but you doubt God could ever love someone like you. Maybe you’ve been ridiculed or bullied, struggling with your self-worth.
As a child, were you told you weren’t good enough? Did you become a performance addict with a need to prove you were likable, lovable and valuable? Do you know you’re not alone, today?
Pastor Chip Ingram says, “Many of us struggle with conceptualizing the enduring, sacrificial, infinite, and unconditional love of our heavenly Father. I think this is because we always try to put God’s love into our own human terms—and our terms always fall far short.
“Our human relationships have conditioned us to measure love by ‘ifs,’ ‘maybes,’ and ‘becauses,’” he adds. “‘I’ll love you if you do this.’ Or, ‘I love you because you did that.’”
Slipping through my fingers, the delicate dessert dish shattered as it hit the counter top. What else could go wrong? The small, stemmed dish was one of six, a set belonging to my mother.
Earlier that day, the chain of my favorite necklace broke. The next day, I was cleaning, rearranging and organizing my office when I accidentally knocked my computer printer to the floor. Broken into several pieces, I tried to reassemble it. It was beyond fixing. I had to order a new one.
When we invite Christ to be our Savior and Lord, we’re made new. However, that doesn’t mean we’re automatically perfect. It means we’ve accepted we’re imperfect sinners in need of His amazing grace.
In an imperfect world, perfection can never be achieved by human effort. But, as the Apostle Paul said in Philippians 3:12, “Not that I have already obtained this or am already perfect, but I press on to make it my own, because Christ Jesus has made me His own.”
While I was a believer, I wasn’t a Christ-follower until I accepted His gift of grace in my late 40s. Before then, I was a perfection addict. Striving to achieve that goal meant denial of my imperfections.
On a spring day in Pennsylvania, a poor boy was selling goods to pay his way through school. The year was 1863, and the boy was going door-to-door to meet his goal. While traveling through the countryside, he became hungry. He only had a dime left, so he decided to ask for food at the next house.
However, he lost his nerve to ask the young woman who answered the door for a meal. Instead, he asked for a drink of water. Thinking he looked hungry, the woman brought him a large glass of milk. After he slowly savored the nourishment, he asked her, “How much do I owe you?”
The young woman replied, “You don’t owe me anything. Our mother taught us never to accept payment for a kindness.”
The boy said, “Then, I thank you from the bottom of my heart.”
As the young man walked away, he not only felt physically stronger, but his faith in God and man was strengthened also. He had been ready to give up.
How many of us make New Year’s resolutions but fail to follow through? We resolve to lose weight and get healthy. We promise ourselves we’ll pay off debt and save money. We plan to give up habits detrimental to our well-being. Most of the time, most of us don’t accomplish what we yearn to do.
Why do we begin a New Year full of hope and promise, only to fall back on old habits and ways of thinking? Is it because we’re trying to accomplish our goals without the help of the One who has our best interests at heart?
Instead of resolutions, what if we made commitments? What would that look like for each of us? What if we saw ourselves through the eyes of God’s Holy Word? Would that make a difference?
Make spiritual growth a commitment
What if our first commitment was to grow spiritually? Would that lead to healthier physical and fiscal habits? Would we drop pounds and fatten our bank accounts so we were physically and fiscally able to help others?
As I clipped and then filed her fingernails, I listened as my soon-to-be 89-year-old friend relived her past. Josie has been hospitalized or in rehab since May of this year. She was injured in an automobile accident, killing the driver, her husband Dave.
I’ve known Josie since 2001 when we became neighbors. However, there was much of her past I did not know, like the fact her only daughter is adopted. As my friend shared her journey from her first marriage and the adoption of Monica, I asked more questions. She readily shared, including the circumstances of her first husband’s death.
I held back tears as she described in details the adoption process and her fears of someone returning to claim her daughter, not born of her body, but of her heart.
“I was so afraid,” she said. “I wanted to hold her close and never put her down.”
The sound of breaking glass made me cringe. I’d just broken my favorite pitcher because I was careless. I’d paid less than five dollars for it a yard sale. Its beauty had drawn me to part with my money.
Frustrated by my carelessness, I sighed as I cleaned up the mess of broken glass and spilled iced tea. When I cut my finger on a piece of the glass, I almost cried. I was tired. A lack of quality sleep the night before multiplied the incident into a disaster in my mind, until I reminded myself it was only a pitcher.
Later that day, I’d forgotten the pitcher, already tossed into the trash and ready for disposal. Then, I broke something else. I was digging in the dirt in preparation for some stepping stones in front of my backyard gate when I hit something solid. I bent down to remove several rocks and also encountered some tree roots. As I was hacking away at them with my shovel, I hit something else. Upon further examination, I realized I’d just severed my Internet line.
“Just great,” I thought. After cleaning up the mess, I called my Internet provider who informed me it would be the following Monday before it could be repaired. While I’d have to wait five days for the line to be fixed, the other bad news was the cost of the repair. I cringed when the company agent said, “It’ll be $149.”
“Oh well,” I said to myself, “there goes the three-day road trip I’d planned for the following week with my sister.”