Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Day 26: Purpose Stealers - Living in the Past

In Pixar's 2009 animated film Up, we watch young Carl Fredricksen grow from a quiet little boy with an adventurous spirit into an endearing husband and balloon vendor. Over the years we see Carl's dreams burst like the balloons he sells. He never completes an expedition around the world. He and his wife Ellie never have the children they've hoped for. And once he finally arranges their dream-trip to "Paradise Falls," Ellie becomes very ill and dies.

When a series of unfortunate events sends him to court, a judge orders Carl to move to a retirement home. Fighting this fate, he travels in his house (being lifted by thousands of helium balloons) to Paradise Falls. Paradise Falls proves to be less than paradise in reality, and in the end, he must choose to let go of his house -- and his past -- in order to save those that matter around him.

Like Carl, we too have a tendency to hold on to the past.

Getting stuck in the past can be very destructive to walking in our God-given purpose. To quote Monique Zackery, my 31 Days blogger sister, from her Day 23 post, 31 Days of Victory: The Present Glory: "When our thoughts are fixed on the past, we can become quickly consumed by the 'shoulda, coulda, woulda's'. We might find ourselves chained to regret, guilt or shame. From another perspective, we can also be consumed by our past victories, or 'the good ol' days', taking our mind off the present glory."

 I've struggled on both sides of the shoulda, coulda, woulda mentality. Just today, I had the most interesting conversation with Anthony that went something like this:

"You know, I really wish I had studied Print Journalism in college, instead of broadcast journalism," I rambled. "I mean, I would have gained so much more by studying journalism instead of television production. And just think how much farther I would be in my writing career by now if I'd done that."

And then it happened. As if God Himself had literally, but lovingly, shaken me by my shoulders, I shut up long enough to process my own words. My own thinking.

What was I talking about? Why was I dwelling on a decision I made decades ago? It's entirely too late to change my undergraduate major, don't you think? After all, I graduated from college exactly twenty years ago!

So believe me when I say this. I'm writing this post out of my own weakness today. I am famous for the "shoulda, coulda, woulda" syndrome. (I hear that Amen, Anthony.) I, like many of you, am growing to learn from the past, while living in the present.

If we get stuck in the past, it's impossible to move forward in our purpose.

When I was pregnant with my first child, Kalin, I had a slew of medical issues. I'll spare you most of the gory details, except that I spent half the pregnancy on strict bed rest. I was in and out of the hospital, and eventually suffered a blood clot. To say it was a scary eight months is an understatement. Every time I visited my obstetrician I expected bad news. Oftentimes, she didn't disappoint.

Well, fast forward ten years.  I had suffered two miscarriages (I discussed this period of my life at length on Day 18: Purpose In Pain), and Anthony and I had adopted twice.

Then came Miss Jada.

After suffering two miscarriages and a tumultuous first pregnancy, I was elated to be pregnant. I was also scared to death. At first I watched vigilantly for signs of miscarriage. Then I waited for signs that I would have to go on bed rest again. And whenever I felt the slightest discomfort in either leg, I was sure I was suffering another blood clot.

I'll never forget the day the Lord spoke lovingly to me from Proverbs.
"Forget the former things; do not dwell on the past. See I am doing a new thing! Now it springs up; do you not perceive it?" Isaiah 43:18-19
I knew God was speaking directly to me that day. This pregnancy would be different than the first three, and He was going to receive glory for it. From that day on, I walked in faith, knowing that I would carry my baby to term and that she and I were going to be fine.

Can you think of past mistakes that you've wasted time wanting to erase? Can you recall past pains that you've feared might reoccur?

God's speaking lovingly to you today. He's telling you to forget the former things. He's wanting you to stop dwelling on the past. Open your spiritual eyes. He's doing a new thing!

There's a woman in the Bible who got stuck in her past. Naomi experienced her share of heartache. She, her husband and her two sons had escaped a famine by moving to the pagan country of Moab. While in Moab, Naomi's husband died. Her two sons married Moabite women, and after ten years in that foreign country, both sons died as well.

Naomi was beside herself with grief. She returned home so downtrodden, the ten years must have looked like thirty on her. The townswomen barely recognized her. Listen to her words to them:
"'Don't call me Naomi,' she told them. 'Call me Mara, because the Almighty has made my life very bitter. I went away full, but the LORD has brought me back empty. Why call me Naomi? the LORD has afflicted me; the Almighty has brought misfortune upon me.'" Ruth 1:20-21 (Note: Mara means bitter)
Now I'm not belittling the pain Naomi must have felt. I cannot imagine the pain of losing my husband, then a son, and then another son. For those who have lost loved ones, we know you never get over the pain. But I am convinced that with God, we can get through the pain. And we can relearn to live our lives with purpose, and eventually joy. I believe our deceased loved ones would want no different for us.

But Naomi had become comfortable in her grief. She chooses to psychologically die along with her husband and sons. She is stuck in the past, and she can't seem to break through. She can't even experience the joy of her daughter-in-law that has turned away from her biological family and her country to follow Naomi, and Naomi's God. She can't see the jewel of a woman God's placed right in front of her face. And she can't see the love that God still has for her, despite the great pain she has experienced.

What great blessings have you missed because you're stuck in the past of your life? What pain is blinding you from the people God's brought into your life to bless you? What jewels have you missed right in front of your face?

More importantly, how is the mess of your life blinding your view of God?

Needless to say, I'm a huge fan of Mandisa. Read these lyrics from the single "Say Goodbye" from her What If We Were Real? CD: (click here to listen)

To the voice, to the liar in the mirror
Saying you can't ever change
To the guilt that's sitting on your shoulder
Always keeping you wrapped in shame
To the past that you can't undo
To the pain that you're walking through
To the small and the big mistakes
This is what love wants to say

Say goodbye, say goodbye
To the one that you used to be
Say goodbye, say goodbye
Everyday is a brand new mercy

We can choose to learn from the past, then move through it to the present. We can live a life of purpose today, instead of a life of regret and shame. God wants so much for us. But we've got to move from the past in order to embrace it.

I'm saying goodbye to the past and embracing the today God has for me. Will you say goodbye too?

Purposed For Him,



  1. Thanks for sharing a quote from my blog. Interesting thing is, I needed this reminder today. How quickly we forget the things God placed on our heart just three days ago... the very things we write about. He so gently reminds me to put each principle into practice. Thanks, Carla.

  2. Give me a moment while I stand up and applaud this post.

  3. Thanks everybody! I'm needing the encouragement now 'cause this little engine is running out of steam...

  4. I am standing and applauding too Carla. I am a living witness that it's never to late, there is still depth in God's teaching for us at the wisdom age of "50" and beyond (Big Gulp...yep I put it out there). So Carla He used you to reach the young and old. I am grateful..and feel bless to be inspired by my Sistah!!