bring the past only if you are going to build from it

—-doménico cieri estrada

There is no past for someone who is temporary.

—-Charles Dean Burbank

My quote is something I said to try to explain the part of me that I was and am trying to change.  When you meet people and flutter from person to person, situation to situation, you develop a strict sense of rewritable history.  You can change the facts and facets of your past to suit the time and place  and person in front of you.  My friend Lynnette once called me a sociopath saved by grace.  That’s because I have been more comfortable being in new situations and meeting new people almost all my life.  It’s hard to see the same folks all the time without seeing the mistakes and failings and foibles from my past.  Since I have lived sometimes without consideration for tomorrow, I have many things to atone for.  That’s a change in perspective.

But in light of the quotes above, bringing one’s past with you everywhere can be one of two things. 

 

Something to build your future upon or

something that keeps you from moving forward. 

 

I’ve spent the last year or so working at realising what it means to be temporary and how God calls us to something different.  To be invested in community, invested in people, invested. 

Today I am realising exactly how the process that one learns from being in AA really skews God’s grace.  At an AA meeting, I greet everyone the same way they greet me.  Hi, I am Charles and I’m an alcoholic.  For someone who realises they need help, it’s one of the first and most important junctures in their lives.  They can actually move forward and receive help.  Yet, at some point, the process makes one identify with their disease… I am an alcoholic, not I am someone who is overcoming alcoholism.  The grace is in fact being able to be freed from the daily addiction, but one believes that they are never free.  It’s bringing one’s past and having that past as a part of our identity in the present.  It seems to be counterproductive at a point in a person’s development to identify with one’s failures and weaknesses.

That seriously convinces someone that they are not able to become something new.  Being something new is what I’ve been searching for and struggling with for years… and I now have to accept that things need a new label.  I have to allow the past to stay in the past.  To build upon it instead of using it as a mirror for today.  One of my favourite quotes is from Martin Luther King Jr.

“Forgiveness does not mean ignoring what has been done or putting a false label on an evil act. It means, rather, that the evil act no longer remains as a barrier to the relationship.”

I believe that changing from a well-entrenched behaviour one has to recognise the reality of having that behaviour, but at some point without the grace of being a new creation (even though that means an alcoholic will never be without the craving or the peril in indulging that craving) a person doesn’t move forwards in their life.  They can get stuck.  In a way, grace is like forgiveness.  The memory isn’t gone, but it no longer acts as a barrier to being the new creation. 

In investigating grace during Lent, I was confronted over and over again that for me to no longer be temporary, I have to actually accept that I no longer have to be.  I was.  I may be again, but I am not now.  That is a wonderful aspect to grace.  So, while my eyes are fixed towards the future and not the past, I have learned that there is something askew with my quote above.  If I look at it through the eyes of grace, through the eyes of being able to fully be no longer temporary… I would say this:

There is no present for someone who is temporary.

The past is done and cannot be changed.  The future will never come.  We only have today, and today we live in the shadow of the cross.  I was. I will be.  But, I am… not… temporary.

That’s grace.

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