When the Past Comes to Call…


“All our experience with history should teach us, when we look back, how badly human wisdom is betrayed when it relies on itself”

Martin Luther (German Priest and Scholar whose questioning of certain church practices led to the Protestant Reformation. 1483-1546)

Henry loved Dora very much. He couldn’t wait to be with her and every minute apart was filled with him thinking about her. When he slept, he dreamed of her face. One day, Henry learns that Dora has “a past”. They were in a garden when she told him. Henry heard a faint “hiss”, and slowly the green snake of jealousy sunk its teeth into his heart. Reacting to the venom, he felt queasy and his face grew hot. He was heartbroken. His perfect angel now seemed tarnished. How could he continue to love a woman with “a past” and marry her??

The story above is completely made up. (My apologies to any real life couples bearing the names of Henry and Dora.) In the age in which we live, it is not uncommon for people to have many life experiences before settling down. This includes relationships and all that follows them. As difficult as these things can be when faced knowingly from the beginning, they can be fatal to the bonds of trust when they spring up, unannounced somewhere down the path of the future. What we have to remember is that the past is gone. It cannot be re-done or undone. Think of the many things in your past that you would change if you had the chance. When you think of your own past, you might remember that you no longer live there.

So Henry is now faced with a choice. He can let his hurt and wounded pride fester. He can stew in it and let it grow bigger and bigger until he is almost convinced that Dora ‘s former experiences are current experiences that she can’t wait to throw in his face! He may feel that their romance was a lie, based on an understanding between him and a person who is not who he thought she was. He can choose to end the romance and walk away from this woman who has become his life. He can even conveniently forget about the fact that he has his own past and hold his beloved Dora at a distance, until both of their hearts are broken and they lose the something very rare and precious that they have found in one another…

OR…

He can remember the many, many things he would rather he had never done and said, many of them, truthfully, MUCH more shocking and horrible than the simple fact of Dora’s loving someone else, however unwisely. He can see Dora in the new light of the present and the wisdom she has gained from her failings. He can realize that Dora is his beloved and she is with him, not because she has to be, but because she chooses to be. He can further realize that holding Dora’s past against her is like digging up graves  to call the bones to account.

There are times when we come to a fork in the road and our choices right then decide our futures. There may be someone, or more than one, whose past you find hard to accept. Maybe they have spent time behind bars, or in bars, or strip clubs, or as strippers, or prostitutes, or drug addicts, or stalkers, or murderers, thieves, liars, cheats, abusers, the list goes on. Perhaps they have hurt you, or someone you love. Perhaps you are holding their past up as a shield to keep from dealing with them. Perhaps you think you are better than them, even though you would never admit it. This is a slippery road to travel, my friend. I can tell you this from experience. The problem is that when we hold other people to a certain standard, we become responsible to live up to that standard as well. We accuse others and excuse ourselves.

The truth is, however, we have all been forgiven MUCH that we can never repay. We can never make restitution for our own pasts, why do we demand this from others? The truth is, yes, you and I have things in our pasts that we may regret, they may shame us, and they may have hurt us. The people around us share similar experiences of regret, shame, and pain as well. When we hold things over people’s heads, we only add to their hurts and stand as roadblocks to them having a different future, with us included that is.

So, you may be wondering, what did Henry do? Did he walk away from Dora, or did he look at his own past, and hold on tight to her hand? What would you have done? What path do you choose?

The Parable of the Unmerciful Servant

 Then Peter came to Jesus and asked, “Lord, how many times shall I forgive my brother or sister who sins against me? Up to seven times?”

 Jesus answered, “I tell you, not seven times, but seventy-seven times.

 “Therefore, the kingdom of heaven is like a king who wanted to settle accounts with his servants.As he began the settlement, a man who owed him ten thousand bags of gold  was brought to him. Since he was not able to pay, the master ordered that he and his wife and his children and all that he had be sold to repay the debt.

 “At this the servant fell on his knees before him. ‘Be patient with me,’ he begged, ‘and I will pay back everything.’ The servant’s master took pity on him, canceled the debt and let him go.

 “But when that servant went out, he found one of his fellow servants who owed him a hundred silver coins. He grabbed him and began to choke him. ‘Pay back what you owe me!’ he demanded.

 “His fellow servant fell to his knees and begged him, ‘Be patient with me, and I will pay it back.’

 “But he refused. Instead, he went off and had the man thrown into prison until he could pay the debt. When the other servants saw what had happened, they were outraged and went and told their master everything that had happened.

 “Then the master called the servant in. ‘You wicked servant,’ he said, ‘I canceled all that debt of yours because you begged me to.Shouldn’t you have had mercy on your fellow servant just as I had on you?’ In anger his master handed him over to the jailers to be tortured, until he should pay back all he owed.

 “This is how my heavenly Father will treat each of you unless you forgive your brother or sister from your heart.”

Matthew 18 : 21-35

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