THIS SERIES: CREATE SPACE FOR LIFE
Our dining table is sporting an array of detritus again, bits and pieces which detract from its polished surface and the spring arrangement in its centre. We all have those spots where stuff collects: the front porch, the hall chair, a kitchen counter... or perhaps it's somewhere hidden from view… a particular drawer, cupboard, cellar or garage. And if we don't deal with the accumulating debris, the few items become a mound, and a day's work, or more, is required to deal with it.
This jetsam, the normal consequence of living, which is regularly thrown up on our household surfaces has a corresponding manifestation in our inner world. We live on a fallen planet, and it leaves its scars. Our failures, and those of other people, past experiences, health issues, financial problems, disappointments—all the stuff of living leaves its mark. And a lifetime’s accumulation of unresolved issues has a devastating effect on the life we live in the present.
Last month saw the beginning of Lent, the season of the liturgical year preceding Easter. Historically it was one of the periods in which candidates were prepared for baptism. Taking its inspiration from the story of Jesus' sojourn in the wilderness, the emphasis has always been on prayer, fasting and repentance. Lent points to, and finds its climax in the Cross, the pivotal point of history.
Whether or not you belong to a traditional church, this season is a good time in your faith-journey to declutter those unresolved issues in your life. And the invitation is to come to the Cross, which has the answer for every human need. Why not plan in time over the next few weeks to face up to the unresolved issues in your life which stop you really living? Why not make this Easter the time when you experience Resurrection Life in all its power?
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.
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DECLUTTER YOUR PAST
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, 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.
We are in the middle of Lent, 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:
PRAYING THROUGH YOUR PERSONAL HISTORY
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 and 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 (when it’s allowed) 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. Come to the Cross and 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. This is 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 and what happened. (“Jack, 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, and 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 its 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!
You can find more help on the Hope for the Hurting page.
A NEW SERIES: EASTER MEDITATIONS
NOW IT'S YOUR TURN...
[Photo credits: Tengyart (eggs); Soul Devocean (cross); John Schnobrich (laptop) @ Unsplash, with thanks]
1. A Lesson from David and Solomon: Live in Rest
2. Welcoming Jesus Christ, the Prince of Peace
3.Mighty is the Power of the Cross
4. Walking into Rest: the Journey from Judea to Galilee
5. Meeting the Risen Jesus
6. Don't Worry about Your Life: Resting in Divine Provision
7. Signposts to a Divine Encounter
Da Kraplak (type writer);
Merakist (social media)
@ Unsplash, with thanks]
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