I realized the other day that I have a bad habit of thinking back over my life and categorizing things with a very broad brush. I tend to think, “that was a bad time,” “that was a good time,” “I was miserable in that season,” etc. It occurs to me that this is dramatic and actually not reflective of reality. It’s actually a quite lazy way to think! The truth is for the majority of difficult situations and seasons in our life’s history, it was not “all bad.” And in this way, we actually rewrite the storybook of our lives.
I often say that since having Grayson almost four years ago, my memory has decreased dramatically. I might say it in a rueful, joking way, but I’m really not joking. I’ve (sadly) noticed a marked decline in my memory of past events and even my ability to remember things that happen on a daily basis. Honestly, it scares me just a little bit. My grandmother had dementia, so I know that I need to start getting serious about doing things for the health of my memory and my mind. So I’ve got some “gaps” when I try to remember events from my childhood. Now before you all get too concerned for me, I think this is true for most of us and is a natural progression of aging. However, what do we do when trying to connect the timeline of our lives? We fill in the gaps, of course! We’re not intentionally trying to change the way things were or trying to be deceptive in any way. Most of us are sane individuals and are honestly just trying to make sense of our personal past.
The other day, I caught myself thinking back on my entire childhood in a negative way. I’m just so thankful that I finally noticed the thought and screened it and said to myself, “that’s ridiculous!” Thank the Lord there was something in me that finally took my reflective thinking to account! Yes, our home was dysfunctional. There was some garbage. But I’ve found that I’ve allowed things that came to light later in life color my entire past. That’s simply not fair, and it’s not true. My childhood was a good one. I have some precious memories. As a child, I had an inkling that things were perhaps not always as they should be, but it really was just an inkling. Most of the time, I was just a child having fun and making memories with minimal worry. My needs were taken care of and most importantly, I began my walk with the Lord as a child. There are so many who would look longingly at my childhood and wish that theirs would have resembled mine. How could my thinking have gotten so off?
It is said that our focus determines our reality. I’ve found that at times, I have allowed myself to dwell on only the negative memories and omitted the multitude of positive ones. This is not truth, friends! You might be asking yourself why this matters. It’s in the past, right? But it DOES matter!! Negativity in any form and in any tense, past, present or future has an effect on us! Further, I believe it’s just another way that we’ve allowed lies to color the truth of our lives. Yes, I said it. Lies. Satan comes and reminds of us something from the past that was hurtful, harmful and damaging. “Your life was so bad,” he says. “You’ve gotten a bad lot in life. Everyone else has it so good, but not you.” And we take it, hook, line and sinker. “Yes, my life was bad. That wasn’t fair. Why couldn’t I have had a childhood like ___________? That’s why I’m struggling today….” Do you see how this seemingly innocent reflection on things starts to really get us down? We start to feel like victims and now the past is overshadowing our present and, in fact, coloring who we are today.
We’ve got to stop it. The fact is that life is hard. It never goes as planned. Marriages fail, jobs are lost, families are torn apart and so many times we have to “start over” again. Please don’t misunderstand me; I know there are a few circumstances in life that are all bad. I would say that when physical harm or death occurs to a loved one, yes, that’s as low as a person can get, I believe. It’s a black time. My husband tragically lost both of his parents within a span of fifteen months. But do you know what he says? He says that there was a nearness to the presence of the Lord then more than at any other time. Even amidst the heartache, he experienced a beautifully tender side of God. Can we not choose to remember and focus on the good that was present? I promise that it’s better for your health! So, yes, the marriage you thought would last forever ended unexpectedly. It was devastating. But was the entire marriage bad? Were there sweet memories alongside the bad ones? Maybe memorable vacations or times when you were both trying very hard? That’s the gold in the rubble. I get the mental picture of the old-timey “gold diggers” standing in the river and bringing up loads of dirt in their pans. Muddy rocks, sand, stick and weeds is the majority of what came up after digging in the river. But what did they do? They started to shake the pan, gently sifting through the rubbish. Why? They were looking for little tiny flecks of gold! They knew that, yes, most of their effort would bring up worthless dirt but if they tried, they could find a little gold in the midst of it. That’s what I’m asking us all to do….Sift through your past and instead of seeing the mountains of dirt, seek out the flecks of gold. See the good that was there and remember it realistically. Your present and your future will thank you.
Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things. (Philippians 4:8)
[This post was originally published on August 1, 2016.]