The past is not a real thing, not in the sense that you can reach out and touch it. The past is really not much different than a ghost. I don’t believe in ghosts like the ones that we see on TV, but I believe in the ghosts of the past that each of us may carry.
You can know that you are haunted when you find yourself stuck in rumination, having enormous reactions at little things, you frequently feel empty, you put arbitrary limitations on yourself, and your world is constricted and small because of a few terrible things that occurred a long time ago.
This has caused me a lot of doubt over the years, because I had an incorrect view about healing. I thought there was something wrong with me because my healing was often impartial. What I have learned is that Jesus wants you and me to be healed, but it may take a few tries before we find the peace we are looking for.
Your past is not a problem, merely a perspective.
In the New Testament, Jesus met a blind man who was in need of some perspective.
They arrived at Bethsaida. Some people brought a sightless man and begged Jesus to give him a healing touch. Taking him by the hand, he led him out of the village. He put spit in the man’s eyes, laid hands on him, and asked, “Do you see anything?”
He looked up. “I see men. They look like walking trees.” So Jesus laid hands on his eyes again. The man looked hard and realized that he had recovered perfect sight, saw everything in bright, twenty-twenty focus. Jesus sent him straight home, telling him, “Don’t enter the village.” Mark 8:23-26 (Message)
Jesus had to help the man to see a second time. He could have left the man with his ghosts, but sometimes healing takes a few tries.
Think about it this way, problems are real and they can be solved. But your past is much different. It is not real and it can never be solved. That does not mean that you are stuck with the past, on the contrary, you have already worked through most of the difficult aspects of your past. Most times, the healing comes naturally. You work out your past every time you pray, or have a vulnerable conversation with a friend, or create something out of frustration or pain, or you work feverishly out of anger or irritation.
When I am making pancakes and I realize I am out of eggs, I solve the problem. I go to the store or I borrow an egg from a neighbor. But when the past comes up in the form of memories, emotions or physical reactions, I can’t reach for an egg or go to the store. But you and I do just that, every time we use shopping or eating or TV or exercise or religion or education or sex to try and solve our emotions.
“The past is a perspective, not a problem to be solved.” This is a brilliant quote by a friend of mine, Tracy. If the past is a perspective, we can choose a different one. In reality, we probably need more windows in our homes than screens that use Windows. A window can give us a different perspective and help us to engage life differently.
Sometimes we need professional help, but the help that we need is not to solve past problems. We really need to see our present, and our future with fresh eyes rather than through foggy ghost-filled glasses.
If thinking, feeling, or sensing more and more about our past is not the ‘solution’ then how do you gain a new perspective? You may need some therapy, some intentional journalling, meditation or some good friends. Each person has their own path. It makes sense to me that if ruminating about the past keeps me stuck, then intentionally reflecting on the present day and the future is part of building a new perspective. Where we invest our time and our resources, that is where our attention will be.
Maybe you can build a little perspective by building time into your day for exercise, for meditation or for other forms of self-care. Reflecting on your goals and personal dreams can also help to move your forward. Or maybe just get out and live your life, because living a life that you enjoy, that challenges your comfort zone is the greatest way to silence the ghosts.
Your life is much, much more than your ghosts.
The story they want to tell is a small story filled with negative rumination and fear. You are bigger than that. Your healing may be partial, but that does not mean that you are defective. Jesus did not blame the blind man and he does not blame you. Grace, well it is often messy.
Perhaps today, it is time to stop fixing and trying to solve your past. Instead, look for a different perspective, a fresh way to view yourself and your present and future.
Keep it Real
A version of this post was previously published on smswaby.