I am not what happened to me, I am what I choose to become.
— CARL GUSTAV JUNG
Good morning, friends! I hope your Monday has begun well, as best a Monday can. The sun isn't shining right now, but it will again.
I rarely preach in these Encouraging Word e-mails, but today I may come close. Yesterday my daughter told me a joke she learned from Siri, the iPhone voice: "The past, the present and the future walked into a bar. It was tense." Ba dum bum! It may sound like a joke, but the reality is we all walk around carrying some versions of the past, present and future with us. We are told: let go of the past, live in the present, head towards the future you desire. Sage advice, certainly, but easier said than done. I've learned that past, present and future are not distinct entities in us, with clearly defined lines of demarcation. We don't enter into one from the last as if going through a door. Nor do we have one singular journey in life, as it relates to the tenses of our lives. We live in the present, moving towards the currently sought future, carrying those experiences of the past we have yet to reconcile or release. Yet, the only moment we have any control of is the present.
Take the lady Jesus encountered in John 8, the one caught with a partner in the act of adultery. We don't know exactly what "adultery" means in context; the best we can surmise is that she was partner to unmarried relations. Read the story if you like, but the upshot is that Jesus did not condemn her, and challenged her as he released her to "leave her life of sin" as one translation puts it. If there ever has been, here was a woman publicly living in the tenses. A troubled past brought her a present unsavory lifestyle, and now Jesus is challenging her to choose a different future. We are left with our assumptions.
Thank God yours and my lives are not lived publicly, for the display and assumptions of readers. Every day we have the opportunity to do a little house cleaning in our lives. Every day we have the opportunity to craft a new direction, with few people any the wiser. If we learn anything from the assumptions of the John 8 story it's that the past isn't easy to reconcile and release. We drag it along clumsily through the present for some time into the future, until we make peace with it, or at least make the past of it. Where are the clean doors when we need them? Let's affirm what Jung says, that the past does not define us. It does, however, influence us and we can choose the future we desire, given the work we are willing to do. I don't know your past; you do. And you know the level to which you allow your past to dictate your future. Are you seeking to live the life you desire, or the one you feel resigned to? What house cleaning in you needs to happen? Is your past really holding you back, or are your choices holding you back? I don't know what "better" is for you, but if you do (and I believe you do) then take this moment to be honest with yourself and make two good decisions to move you in your "better" direction. You will hardly believe the blessing of positive movement until you try it. I have faith you will be blessed by it, for your own sake. Get to it, and know that I believe in you.
Next week I promise I'll be back to the shorter, abbreviated version of encouragement. Promise.