Well, it’s February. January has come and gone. Nobody has asked about your one word in weeks, it’s possible to find a parking spot at the gym, and on the rare occasion you are required to write the date, your hand automatically draws a nine.
We are fully into the new year now, and yet some of us are still living in the past.
We’re not even surprised when we break our resolutions, again. Or we didn’t bother making resolutions or setting goals in the first place because why bother? We look at the hard situation we’re facing and think it will never be over, or we wonder if we’ll ever be out of the woods. Some of us even find ourselves questioning the good things that are happening. Surely, it was meant for someone else. Or maybe it’s not even real. Because we know we don’t deserve this.
A couple months ago, I watched the two-hour finale to a TV show called Timeless. The show was about a team of scientists, soldiers, and historians using a time machine to stop bad guys from changing history. (Yes, I realize that sounds silly. It was, but I loved the show anyway.) One of the characters spent much of the finale struggling with guilt over his actions in an alternate timeline. As he whined — I mean, lamented — to one of the characters he’d hurt with his actions, she lost her patience. She said, “Why are you beating yourself up over a history that only you and I remember?”
As I watched the last few minutes of this short-lived show, I gasped and grinned and, unsurprisingly, shed a few tears. As TV finales go, it was just about perfect. But as much as I was entertained and delighted by the show, what kept ringing in my ears as the credits rolled were those words:
“Why are you beating yourself up over a history that only you and I remember?”
I started wondering if maybe that’s what Jesus is saying to me every time I dwell on the past, forgetting that I’ve been forgiven and remembering every one of my mistakes, my bad decisions, my sins. Even He doesn’t remember those things. Psalm 103 says He removes our sins as far as the east is from the west, and Jeremiah 31 says God promises to forgive our sin and never remember it. No, we can’t change our past, but God will forgive it. No time machine or alternate timeline required.
So why are we sometimes so determined to remember every misstep we’ve ever taken? Why do we bring to mind the ugly things we’ve said, the regrettable way we’ve behaved, the times we let others — and ourselves — down? Why do we hit “play” on that record, over and over again, until every detail is ingrained in our minds where they can’t be ignored or forgotten?
In Timeless, the two main characters were literally the only people who remembered what had happened and how much it had hurt. In our own lives, reality isn’t so kind. But even when forgiveness has been offered and time has begun healing wounds, we tend to hold onto the memory of our mistakes anyway — as if keeping the memories alive is some kind of atonement, rather than abuse. As if accepting forgiveness somehow diminishes our grief and regret. As if we cannot accept forgiveness until we have punished ourselves sufficiently.
Except . . . Jesus.
The One who deliberately does not recall our sins once He’s forgiven them? He’s the same One who took every bit of punishment we deserve. And He did it so we don’t have to. He looked at our dirty, tear-stained faces full of regret or defiance, shame or arrogance, and He loved us anyway. When we asked, He forgave us. And then He washed us clean, white as snow.
So, here we are. Both feet standing in a new year, and we have a choice. Do we move forward into whatever this calendar year has for us, into whatever God has planned for us? Or do we keep looking back at last year, circling back to our mistakes, playing the tape of our failures and our faults over and over again?
Let’s move forward, friends. Let’s trust that when Jesus said, “It is finished,” He really meant it! Let’s believe that He no longer brings to mind our mistakes, that He’s removed our sin and washed us clean. Let’s quit beating ourselves up for a past that only we remember.
We don’t even need a time machine to do it. We simply need to accept Christ’s forgiveness and step forward into our future.
No, we can't change our past, but God will forgive it. -@marycarver: Click To Tweet