We're never going back

by Jon Reeverts

The other day as I cruised down the interstate my ear caught on this question by a radio talk show host, think podcast, and it shook me!

“When in history have we endured a life-altering event and later returned to live life as we previously had lived?”

Immediately I thought - Pearl Harbor. Then, Hiroshima and Nagasaki. A brief moment - forever changed. The past annihilated!

My mind drifted to historic scenes of the end of WWII and how when men came home from the war, life didn’t return to 1939 terms. Women had sustained factories and increased production for the war effort; it’s not like they called it quits and just headed back to their kitchens and white picket fences. The world had shifted gears.

In the late 60’s, I remember crouching under my desk in New York City Public School 71, sirens blared for nuclear fallout drills. I thought that was all about protecting us, until I later was told that it was for the sole purpose of identifying the remains after a nuclear strike. 

What has the fallout been in my life?

Jackie Robinson and the Dodgers changed baseball and sports forever. Later, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.’s efforts to bring equality through peace marches and boycotts thrust America forward. There was no way to backtrack in either event.

July 17, 1969 was “one small step for man, one giant leap for mankind”, because landing on the moon reshaped the landscape of space exploration and global competition.

Jump to September 11, 2001. Did things change?

Are you sensing a pattern here?

Of course, as we have endured mandates, heard more about our constitutional rights and suffered through fearing our friends, family, community members, travelers, restaurant and shopping patrons, beach goers and churches, it has become apparent that we can again never go back. No matter what the science proves about the virus… the imprint, twist and response will limit, influence or direct our paths, attitudes and phobias for a lifetime.

The radio host was right; we can never go back. (Take a moment to grieve.)

What is true for society is also true for our personal lives.

Think, would you ever really volunteer to go back to before:

Pre-Internet days… sounds simpler, but really can you skip convenience?

Pre-microwave?... this takes forever!

Air Conditioning? … Ew!

Hot and Cold running water or indoor plumbing? NOT

Before “Fast Food”

Would you give up Johnny B Goode, Elvis the Beatles and all the musical history that followed? No line item veto available!

Before Interstates, Amusement Parks and TV?

Your old neighborhood/town or stomping grounds?

I hear people say, “I’ll never go back there!”

Sometimes that is referring to a place; sometimes that is referring to a period of our lives; sometimes to an experience,sometimes to a relationship, and sometimes to a way of thinking.

I taught a Leadership class for more than a decade. One of the topics we would cover was: “The price of decisions”.

On one side was

the price of discipline

This price seems astronomical, when you put it under the microscope. 

Choosing to live our lives denying things that might harm, compromise or destroy us, ultimately meant needing to create habits that would initiate, build and reward us for living a “planned” life.

John Goddard is sometimes quoted as having said, “People spend more energy planning their grocery lists than planning their lives.

(See John Goddard’s life list.)

Like Paul says in 1 Corinthians 9:25-27, “Everyone who competes in the games trains with strict discipline. They do it for a crown that is perishable, but we do it for a crown that is imperishable. Therefore I do not run aimlessly; I do not fight like I am beating the air. No, I discipline my body and make it my slave, so that after I have preached to others, I myself will not be disqualified.…”

It’s Biblical to lean into and strive for the prize of living an extraordinary Life. But the Life Paul speaks of goes beyond climbing mountain peaks, target shooting feats and flying jets. But what about the other category?

On it, is the price of regret.

Here’s the truth! The price of regret makes the price of discipline look tiny, because our regrets are wrapped around painful decisions we made. These were the choices that hurt others, or caused us to quit before seeing the possible results, took us down rocky paths or over cliffs and are often tied to embarrassment, failure, ridicule and hopeless despair..

Satan has used these in my life, and for others has used these life events and choices, to emphasize to us that we were never enough and will never be enough. He uses them to create an unlovable, weak, loser identity. Then he uses (Mr.) Sin to speak those lies into our minds every time we reflect on any trigger (A deep-seated belief) tied to them. And finally, he attempts to amplify this hopeless identity through “Would’ve, Could’ve and Should’ve narratives.”

Go ahead - you’re going to anyway. Test it. Reflect on one of your regrets. Think,... “What triggers it?” Seeing an old “friend”? A yearbook? Considering how someone else’s life turned out. Hearing that word or phrase that lights you up? A smell, taste or sound?

In the world’s view, this is an accurate depiction and reason for glorifying the victors in life and minimizing, dismissing or ridiculing those who falter. It’s always about performance and “what have you done for me lately”, as well as focus on a self-improvement philosophy.

I imagine that 2000 years ago, after an incident on a cross, that the Jewish leaders, Roman society and the Middle Eastern world expected everything to just go on as it had before. However, a resurrection shifted the world on its axis, flipped the story and entirely changed what it meant to have “the Life”. God redefined “LIFE” for us, gave that Life to those who called upon the name of the Lord and confessed Jesus as Savior, King and Life, and expresses that Life today.

For those who jumped in - they could see the old world passing away and they had eyes into a new kingdom life that was and continued to be invisible to those around them.

1 John 5:12 “Whoever has the Son has life; whoever does not have the Son of God does not have life.”

In Christ, a believer has a new identity - Child of the King! 

See 2 Corinthians 5:17 [the old has passed and the new has come] and Romans 8:16-17 [adoption as sons, if sons then heirs]

In this new identity, we get to “put to death” the regrets of our past, and we get to walk in the newness of life.

Therefore consider the members of your earthly body as dead to immorality, impurity, passion, evil desire, and greed, which amounts to idolatry.6For it is because of these things that the wrath of God will come upon the sons of disobedience,7and in them you also once walked, when you were living in them.8But now you also, put them all aside: anger, wrath, malice, slander,andabusive speech from your mouth.9Do not lie to one another, since you laid aside the old self with itsevilpractices,10and have put on the new self who is being renewed to a true knowledge according to the image of the One who created him Colossians 3:5-10

Putting those thoughts to death is a pathway to freedom: Freedom from comparison. Freedom from failure. Freedom from a vague reality of measuring up to others’ expectations.

However, it is also a discipline. Being “delivered from the kingdom of darkness to the kingdom of His beloved Son”, puts us in a place where we now not only can, but will enjoy the results of “Setting our minds on things above” [Colossians 3:2-3]  and “Taking thoughts captive”. (2 Corinthians 10:5).

This is not an event - it’s a journey. It is the act of taking up our cross daily and following Christ. We will need to speak the truth against the disappointments of our past. We will need to be equipped with the power of the Almighty through the Life and Glory and the Grace of His Son, Jesus Christ, and the renewing of our minds through the Word.

(Romans 12:1-2)

Even as the world readjusts to cope with having a new reality - the real reality we live in, as believers in and receivers of Jesus Christ, allows us to walk through life, hard life, and difficult life changes, clothed in the righteousness of Christ.

So how does this help? Where does a person begin to process, to hold captive and to be set free from the old and experience that transformation in the new.

First, I would make a list of those past regrets, failures and criticisms (both public experiences and private, self-inflicted wounds) take the list and destroy it by giving to your Almighty Father, Who says…”I will remember them no more.” Hebrews 8:12

Then, I would identify what God was faithful to teach you through those experiences about His faithfulness to use them to conform you to the life of Jesus Christ (Romans 8:28-29). This is not a five-minute exercise - so I could lose many here. This is an exercise in reflection, looking more deeply into your own Soul and the Graceful eyes of your Creator. That’s called intimacy.

Finally, allow yourself to walk in a new freedom, begin to change the conversation in your mind and in your relationships.

Afterall, when you are free of those chains, you are free to encourage, support, empower and love others as they walk out their experiences - even if they are succeeding in the arenas that have fostered your regrets. You won’t allow Satan to use them as triggers any longer. Instead they will be a faithful reminder of God’s redeeming love and His resurrection power!

Now, instead of fearing our return to those moments, they are graced by good - the time spent with Father reveals that He has more for your life, and that He will use what He has taught and that you have learned, to lead others to experience this new exchanged life.

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