Back and Forth

“They have their whole life ahead of them.”

A newscaster used this phrase the other night when talking about some teens that had made some stupid mistake that would cost them either jail time or probation. He was lamenting the fact that they had wasted their life. I thought, “Wait a minute, they don’t have their whole life ahead of them. Clearly they’ve lived a portion of it up to this point!” I know – I’m being petty picking apart a phrase that has other implications, but it did make me think. How much does the past matter?

The reason I ask this question is because I know some people who let their past define them, to the point that they can’t move forward. To them, I counsel the word of God in Isaiah who said, “Forget the former things, do not dwell on the past – see, I am doing a new thing.” I want them to move forward and not let the past be an anchor around them.

But at the same time I know some people who use this as a form of cheap grace and just step away from the rubble they’ve created from past decisions. This bothers me. The present does matter, but so, in a sense, does the past. Decisions I’ve made and people I’ve hurt are very real in my present life. I don’t want to dismiss it completely, because that would mean I’m gaining my spiritual growth on the backs of a world of hurt. I don’t want my progression to be at the expense of others.

In other words, I don’t have my whole life ahead of me. I’ve lived a portion of it already, a portion that matters. People that have mattered. Consequences that still linger.

Why do I mention this? Because if I understand that the past does matter, then it will change how I live now. If I think the past is just washed away then I can justify things now, thinking that they’ll just be washed away as well. I will lose my sense of urgency to do right – now. To treat people with respect and love. To be honest in everything I say and do. I need to know that decisions made may have eternal consequences.

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