THIS SERIES: CREATE SPACE FOR LIFE
We were designed for relationship. Made in the image of the triune God whom someone has described as ‘a sweet society’, man was made not only for relationship with Him, but with each other. Unfortunately the fall stuffed it up. And our personal histories are strewn with the results.
People hurt us, they let us down, disappoint us, and sometimes severely damage us – as we do others. And it’s not just out there in the ‘world’ where this happens; some of the most devastating damage I have encountered in pastoral care has been wrought by other Christians. There are many walking wounded in the body of Christ!
And these issues of the past do not stay safely buried, sometimes they cripple us entirely, trail along behind us, nipping our heels every so often, or become the tinted lens through which we see the present. But Jesus came to set us free. He came to heal our broken places, and release us from the spectre of the past. It is time we cleared out those age-old encumbrances and lived in the good of what He paid for on the Cross.
It is the beginning of Lent this week, the time-honoured season of repentance and preparation for the new life of Easter. It’s a good time, whether or not you belong to a traditional church, to declutter your past and make the decision to walk free.
If this is resonating with you, may I suggest the following way of doing this, which I and many others have found very effective:
First of all, divide up your personal history into distinct periods, and diary in time over several days to address each one in turn:
1. Starting at the beginning, get really quiet inside & ask the Lord to come close; then ask Him to show you the people and incidents which really blessed you during that time. Give thanks. Are there any of those people you need to show appreciation to – a card, letter, phone call or visit to convey your gratitude?
2. Then ask the Lord to show you any instances where you sinned against others during that period, in attitude, word or action. Confess it to the Lord, naming it as sin (it’s important we do this; sin is not ok, and naming it as such helps us face up to it – the first step to healing). Then ask for, receive, and thank God for His forgiveness. Ask Him if there is any action which needs to be taken; and then leave the issue at the foot of the Cross. It is finished.
3. Ask for anything which damaged you during that time to be brought to mind. Take each one in turn and deal with it:
Speak to the person/people as if they were present with you. Name the issue & what happened. (“Sally you disappointed me/let me down/ sinned against me when you…..”)
Then speak out how it affected you - we so often shrug off issues with ‘it doesn’t matter’ when it actually does. These things leave little splinters in us which fester, and prevent us being the people we were created to be.
Again, speaking to the person as if they were present, forgive them in Jesus’ name. Sin creates a debt, when we forgive we release the person from that debt towards us. We set them free; and in doing so, set ourselves free too.
4. Then bless them in the name of the Lord. Biblical blessing is about the empowerment to prosper. So we pray that those we have forgiven will prosper in every good and honourable way. This is the crunchy one, this is how we find out whether we really have forgiven or not!
But forgiveness is about choice not feelings, and if we persevere with blessing we will find that eventually our feelings fall in line, & we will know we are free.
5. Complete the session with praise and thanksgiving. Follow the same pattern with the other periods. And when those 'dealt with' things raise their heads again in our memories, we just tell them firmly they are finished - covered with the blood of Jesus - and go back to praising the Lord.
What about those things which are too devastating to handle on our own, too painful to face? Those sins against us, or perpetrated by us for which we feel there can be no forgiveness?
I would urge you to seek help; to find experienced Christian counsellors who know how pray powerfully, and help you into freedom. Please make the decision to find the help you need, so that you do not live any longer in the shadow of the past.
Jesus came to give us Life - in all it's glory; let's not be robbed of it by unresolved past issues. Let's give our personal history a spring clean - let's allow Him to set us free!
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[**Photo credits: Clem Onojeghuo, with thanks]
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