An old poem reminds us: “All the good the past hath had remains to make our own time glad.” (John Greenleaf Whittier) A lovely thought, but what about those past experiences and mistakes that aren’t so good? You have regrets. Can the past really be redeemed and set right? My colleague, Cynthia Barnett, writing for the March 18, 2017 edition of The Good Men Project, shares the stories of several men who had a difficult past to redeem. Addictions, a sense of failure, and dishonesty would seem to hold them in bondage. Their spiritual solution will give hope to anyone who’s made mistakes–large or small–and wants to leave them behind for a brighter today and tomorrow. Here’s Cynthia:
The past is past and we can’t change it. After all, it happened! If we remember the past with pain, the pain may appear as grief, regret, self-blame or other negative feelings. Sure, we cherish the pleasant memories, but can we rid ourselves of the painful ones? Can we revise, redeem, even overrule the impact of previous experiences on our lives?
A powerful story from over 2000 years ago gives us a clue. It concerns a crooked tax collector named Zacchaeus. Zacchaeus wanted more than anything to meet the man who healed others of their sorry past histories as adulterers, bigots, and sufferers from disease. Perhaps he wanted this kind of transformation for himself. Zacchaeus climbed a tree to see Jesus passing by in the crowds and was rewarded with a hearty invitation from Jesus to be the Master’s host—a great honor. Joyfully, Zacchaeus vowed then and there to “restore fourfold” anything he’d stolen from others. No more corrupt, defrauding identity for Zacchaeus. The Christly recognition of his worthiness restored his innocent self-image. Zacchaeus felt reborn, set aside his past, and stepped into his future (Luke 19).
I saw this same phenomenon with my father….