Is Your Head Shoved Up Your Past?

Every now and then I get tripped up by the what-could-have-been’s and if-only’s. Keeping my head in the past and, or future-tripping, keeps me from living in the present. Distracted by choices never made, I succumb to living a daydream type of life. Out of touch with reality, I miss opportunities to make the most out every moment and allow comparison to rob me of joy. Whether reminiscing over regrets or entertaining mistakes, I set myself up for disappointment. I bet the same could be said about a lot of us. Maybe even you?

As my wife says, “What’s personal is universal”. Meaning: if you’ve experienced something, chances are someone else has, or is having the same experience as well. Sharing the common thread of wondering what life could be like if past decisions were carried out differently, we exert energy over the impossible. Because without a time machine, none of us can alter our past. In as much as we could ever try, we can’t change:

  • the relationships we should have solidified, or the ones we should have broken off sooner.

  • the one decision we made years ago that now keeps us up late at night.

  • getting in on that business deal before the company got huge.

  • saying yes when you should have said no.

  • saying no when you should have said yes.

  • picking up that first drink.

  • going home with someone you shouldn’t have.

  • lighting up the first time.

  • leaving when you should’ve stayed.

  • staying when you' should’ve left.

The list of could haves and should haves is vast and wide. So is the time spent focusing on things we can’t change. And yet, we expect new outcomes and in doing so we surrender ourselves to the cycle of insanity. I get it though, there are plenty of things in my past I wish I could change. I certainly never wanted to experience drug addiction or near financial ruin. There are investments I missed out on, along with a rolling scroll sized list of mistakes I never thought I’d make. A slideshow of disappointments highlight the last couple of years and when left to myself, I exasperate my concerns by elevating them above God. Filled with idolatry, I think to myself what-could-have-been-if-only-I-would-have?! Yet the scriptures reveal a God so merciful, He invites us into letting go of our past to dwell with Him in the present in expectation of the future.

“Forget about what’s happened;
    don’t keep going over old history.
Be alert, be present. I’m about to do something brand-new.
    It’s bursting out! Don’t you see it?
There it is! I’m making a road through the desert,
    rivers in the badlands.

Isaiah 43:18-19 (MSG)

Instead of witnessing all that God is doing, I lend my focus to all I have done and create a self-absorbed worldview. With God in the peripheral, I worship my own abilities rather than our creators. If and when, I allow myself to obsessively pontificate over decisions no longer changeable, I declare my ways are higher than God’s. Because the truth is, no matter how much we may believe we are in control - we are not. However, enabled by the Holy Spirit, we have the ability to practice self-control (Galatians 5:22-23). Though the world around us may be crumbling, we can control the ways in which we respond to the world. Even though we cannot change the past, we can change the ways in which we live in the present.

I cannot begin to fathom the amount of blessings I have looked over because my gaze was attached to things of the past. With attention diverted, we long for fulfilment while the deferment of hope makes our hearts sick (Proverbs 13:12). As I have heard it said, the grass isn’t greener on the other side - it’s greener where you water it. With eyes fixed on Jesus, our desires are fulfilled. What-could-have-been-if-only-I-would-have buckles under the weight of the Gospel because the Gospel is not about what we could’ve, should’ve done, BUT what Jesus has already done.

The next time you find yourself concerned with things out of your control, I encourage you to lovingly and honestly ask yourself:

Is my head shoved so far up my past I am unable to see the present?”

If you’ve made mistakes, give this song a spin and cry out to God. Lay your burdens down!

I know mine has been.
Today, I am praying it won’t be.

Would you join me in this prayer? Father, we surrender the reins of control back into your hands once again and ask you would give us fresh eyes to realize you are in control. Forgive us for trusting in our ways and empower us to focus on all you' have done, not what we have or have not done. We ask for your will to be done in our lives and for your strength and wisdom to help us discern our will from yours. We praise you and thank you for never abandoning us and for always encouraging us to continue pursuing your heart’s cry for our lives: total surrender to you. Lord thank you for your steadfastness. In your son Jesus Christ’s holy and precious name, Amen!

In Your Corner,