Hello Reader! At the end of a week do you ever find yourself thinking back through the week and groaning? Or maybe there are other things farther back that tend to remind you of what happened…what you did or didn’t do…in the past. This was a theme with many conversations at Streams this week so this blog post was inspired by conversations with very brave people. Let me encourage you too, there is a helpful way to reflect and an unhelpful way to think of the past.
An unhelpful way of thinking of the past leaves us in the past. It’s just a band-aid for the pain or regret. Our memories are rooted in emotions, visuals, and whole person experiences. When we get reminded of past events, our brains “go there” and leave us there. Sadly this unhelpful way that we naturally tend to attempts to wrongly convince us our past defines our identity. This thinking of the past causes us to miss out on what is presently occurring and keeps us from discerning the best next steps too.
There is a helpful way to allow the past pain to be healed, for us to be safe as we remember, and for us to be present with others if anything similar happens again.
The helpful way of reflecting on the past allows us to be present. It’s a full healing and it’s strengthening. While reflecting I can notice my God-given desires, other people’s needs, and God himself throughout the day. Memories become framed by a perspective on purpose, hope and invitation. This reflecting of the past develops our confident identity and also good fruit in our lives. Confident identity comes as we allow ourselves to choose the perspective of hope and not of regret-filled pain.
This is not just a way of thinking either. This is a helpful way to acknowledge the needs within us and practice the tried and true methods of renewing our minds, inviting others into the picture and caring for our souls. Reflection is a practice for discerning the voice and activity of God within the flow of our days. It creates deeper awareness of God-given desires in one’s life.
This can be challenging to find the practice of the helpful way. Don’t try to do it alone. Invite God into the picture, as much as you can now, and invite trusted healthy loved ones into the picture too. Consider meeting with a mentor, coach or counselor for a few sessions to begin the new patterns and help you establish the new helpful patterns.
So keep in mind:
- The past doesn’t define us, that’s not who we are. When we apply the helpful way of reflecting on the past we see gratitude being fostered, we recognize God with us, and we develop discernment and receptivity to both God’s voice and meeting the needs around us…not just within us.
- Much trouble comes from thinking the past defines us so much so it defines our destiny. That’s not true. You were created and designed for great works and while things might get in the way, what happens to you doesn’t get to change what you were designed to be and do.
- Trouble in moving to the helpful way also comes with thinking we didn’t get to complete the purpose of the past event. This one’s tough because we can’t go back and get a do-over. However God says he always redeems, restores and renews.
Leaning forward into God is much more practical and helpful than leaning back into the past.
I don’t know what event, decision, action or in-action in your past brings up the groans. Because of that un-knowing I won’t suggest an application point other than the one above of not doing it alone.
So who will you invite in to help you move along the helpful way of reflecting?
In closing, realize I was inspired by the conversations this week and also from the words of the author Paul. Paul wrote a letter to the people of Phillipi a few years ago. In his letter to he wrote, “So don’t you see that we don’t owe this old do-it-yourself life one red cent. There’s nothing in it for us, nothing at all. The best thing to do is give it a decent burial and get on with your new life. God’s Spirit beckons. There are things to do and places to go! This resurrection life you received from God is not a timid, grave-tending life. It’s adventurously expectant, greeting God with a childlike “What’s next, Papa?” God’s Spirit touches our spirits and confirms who we really are.”
Liz Lawrence, MA, LPC-S is counselor, coach and creative who is passionate about people. She directs the Streams Counseling Center in Austin, Texas and co-leads the non-profit Renue.Me whose mission is to invest in the dreams of leaders in underprivileged communities around the world. Connect with her at www.lizlawrencelpc.com or www.renue.me
- Photo and graphic from canva.com, words from Proverbs 31 and author