When we become aware of the big impact that the past has on our present, we can fully engage in the present instead of subjecting ourselves to what I call the “invasion.” It is an invasion because it is truly a battle that takes place within our mind; it is warfare and we are poorly equipped to fight it if we do not know the Word of God. When we continuously view things and circumstances from a past-time perspective, we remain stuck in that time frame; our choices and decisions are strongly compromised.
We try to walk on and live our lives, but the past will never stop its intrusion. Maybe we catch a glance from an old acquaintance we randomly encounter in the street; suddenly the past has come back into our lives. We imagine they are looking at us in a criticizing manner and judging us. Even if we have not seen this person for many years, the inner voice in our head says: “Oh, look. I bet he/she is talking about me, I bet he/she is thinking about all those past years.
So we start to avoid certain places or groups of people. We want to leave the past behind us, but how is this possible if it continues to rear its head whenever we leave home? Wherever we go, we are continually reminded of these past transgressions or of a period of time in our lives during which we lived a careless life.
If we attempt to turn the corner and walk towards the Lord, then someone will pop up to remind us of some past activity that is not in accordance with our new life and self-image. They may mock us for seeking to shift the blame for our internal flaws onto an external factor. They may remind us of those times when we mocked the religious for being unthinking sheep who were unable to take responsibility for their own problems and instead needed to rely on a mystical world view that had more place in a world of cave dwellers than in a modern society.
Dwelling on the past can become a habit in itself. No matter how painful it is to relive the memories we frequently seek solace in those times. However, the lens of time has a tendency to distort past events. When we let our memories play on loop in our heads, we may neglect certain details; we can be prone to attribute significance to things which in reality were unrelated.
If we are in a negative place this will tinged our memories. Instead of viewing them objectively and for what they really are, we instead start to blame ourselves. Continually asking the questions: “Did I do something wrong?” “Could I have acted in a way that would have resulted in a different outcome?” It is easy to go through these questions within our mind to live out alternate courses of events. This could even be a useful exercise.
Nevertheless, it is impossible to answer these questions with certainty. Asking them eventually becomes a self-defeating exercise. We must live in the present and we cannot change what happened in the past. We must though, work on our present so as to walk towards our future, so as to be able to build ourselves a future, instead of remaining tied to our pasts. Whatever did happen took place for a reason, and we must have the good grace to accept this.