I was thinking today about a time in my life more than 30 years ago. Things weren’t going well back then and there was a reason for that: I was living sinfully and my life was almost completely out of God’s order. In fact, I wasn’t a Christian yet and at the time God’s order didn’t matter to me at all.
My life was a mess. I had lost a lot and there were people attacking me and doing their best to make me miserable. I had known for a long time that my life was a mess because of me.
MY sin did that. At the time, though, I didn’t realize the sin part then and I didn't know most of it was my own fault. I just knew that I was a wreck and that I spent most of my time thinking about how things would be different if only……
If only I hadn’t met that person. If only I had listened to my dad and not dishonored him when he tried to warn me. If only I had moved somewhere else. If only….. I was living in the “Land of ‘Used to Be’” trying desperately to change my “Now” by reliving my past and doing it all differently.
When I was a child there was a cartoon show called “The Bullwinkle Show” and one of the characters was a dog named Mister Peabody – a scientist and inventor. His sidekick was Sherman, an orphan that he had adopted as his son. Mister Peabody had invented something he called the “Wayback Machine”. It allowed them to go back into history and participate in historic events like the discovery of electricity.
The machine should have been called the “Should Have Been Machine” (thank you Wikipedia!) because they would actually go back and change how things went in the past. For instance, maybe Mister Peabody and Sherman went back to visit Ben Franklin and gave him the idea to fly a kite in a storm with which he learned about electricity.
How convenient would it have been for me to have had a “Wayback Machine” all those years ago? I could have set the time for “before I met that person” and then arranged for us to never meet. Or I could change my decisions based on the wisdom I had gained from suffering.
The fact is that, to this day, there is no such thing as a “Wayback Machine”. There IS, though, something (2 Corinthians 10:5) called “speculations” (New American Standard Bible) or “imaginations” (KJV) or “arguments” (NKJV). These are thoughts sent to us by our enemy the devil and they are designed to cause us to spend all our focus on things that we can do absolutely nothing about. Satan would love for us to hunger for a “Wayback Machine” (or anything like it) because he knows it’s not going to happen.
He knows that humans have a limited time on the earth. He knows that God has intentions for us (Jeremiah 29:11) and he knows that God has tasks for us to do.
“For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand that we should walk in them.” (Ephesians 2:10)
Satan knows that if I spend my capacity to focus in my limited time on the earth agonizing over things I can do nothing about, I will fail to do the works God has prepared for me to do. So, he tempts us to waste our lives in what I call “Vain Imagination Land” – that fictional place where I think I can do something about the past…..but really cannot.
Flashing back to 30 years ago I remember looking at myself in the mirror. I had a lot of those moments back then. I was weary of beating myself up over the past. I can only assume that the thought I had, even as a lost person, came from the Lord. I recall looking at my reflection and announcing this to myself:
“Used To Be Doesn’t Matter!”
I resolved to live my “Today” as much as possible and to do my best every day. I’ve tried to do that most of the days since. Now, back there I wasn’t a Christian yet so my power source was sketchy: me (my own flesh) and it was me that got me in trouble in the first place – but that was my starting point.
Several years later I received Jesus as my Lord and my Savior and became a Christian. I still walked after my flesh but have since learned to walk more and more consistently in the Spirit – in the power of Christ.
Imagine my surprise when I read and learned verses like these:
“But Jesus said to him, ‘No one, having put his hand to the plow, and looking back, is fit for the kingdom of God.’” (Luke 9:62)
“Brethren, I count not myself to have apprehended: but this one thing I do, forgetting those things which are behind, and reaching forth unto those things which are before, I press toward the mark for the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus.” (Philippians 3:13-14)
What I proclaimed that day is a Biblical principle: live today and invest in your tomorrows.
We have a lot of yesterdays. Together they form what we call our past. Our today only lasts one day and then it goes by and it is added to our past.
Our todays are all important because, unlike our past and our future, we only have authority to accomplish anything each day…..while it is still “today”. We can affect our future by doing or failing to do things today; but, we can no more live in our future than we can in our past. (Satan will, however attempt to get us to worry and be anxious about the future – a different sort of “Vain Imagination Land.”)
So, all those years ago I resolved to stop trying to re-work my past and to live every day as a new experience. My goal was to be a better person and, thereby, have an effect on my future days. That’s worked pretty well and now, allowing Christ to live through me more and more habitually, I’m living an amazing life for Him.
Except for two things, my “Used To Be Doesn’t Matter” at all.
The first thing is this: I don’t believe that the Lord wants us to waste the pain we have experienced or even brought down on ourselves. It is good to look at our pasts briefly to see what exactly it is that we did or what happened. We should submit our past to the Lord to see what it is that HE saw because that is what really happened. Then we should ask Him to reveal what we need to learn from that. Besides, when He purchased us He bought our pasts too; so, “our” pasts are His anyway.
The second thing is this: we must ask the Lord to heal us of the pain that our past failures and wounds have brought into our souls.
(Jesus speaking:) “Come to Me, all you who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.” (Matthew 11:28-29)
Submitting ourselves to the Lord like this will make it harder and harder for the devil to tempt us to dwell on the past and the futility of changing it. Other than that….
“Used To Be Doesn’t Matter” at all.
It is my prayer that as time goes on we will all trust the Lord more and more.
“Trust in the LORD with all your heart, and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways acknowledge Him, and He shall direct your paths. Do not be wise in your own eyes; fear the LORD and depart from evil. It will be health to your flesh, and strength to your bones.” (Proverb 3:5-8)
May we all spend our time and focus on Him all our todays.