Living In the Past vs. Living Out of the Past
My story begins long before 34-plus years ago when I was born. As a child of God inextricably connected to Jesus, my story began before the foundation of the world when my Heavenly Father set his love upon me. It involves chapters where my nature was shaped by Adam’s sin and my sin forgiven by Jesus’ death. Vital to my understanding of who I am is an awareness of those past events and realities that shape the way I live today.
This “living out of the past” has always been significant to the people of God. God gave his people ceremonies, festivals, and even songs to remind them of formative chapters of their story that were years or even generations in the past. He knew it was crucial to their living as his people that they understand how the relationship started, the ways in which they tended to stray from him, and the lengths to which he would go in order to restore them to himself. That’s what it means to live out of the past—to have your present part in the story shaped by the truth (good, bad, and ugly) of past chapters.
We all know people who “live in the past.” They aren’t living in the present part of the story at all but rather seeking to turn back the clock or freeze time in a particular instance. Perhaps they are still trying to live in the glory days of their high school athletic careers. Perhaps they are constantly obsessing over bitterness from a broken relationship from years ago. Perhaps they are spending money they no longer have because they got used to a certain lifestyle.
Perhaps you think the Southwood Session is doing that very thing with the corporate confession we shared on April 2: living in the past, not being willing to move on from a hard season and live where God has us today. I want you to know how much your Session invests in praying for your present needs and planning for the future of Southwood. And I also want you to know how important we believe it is that we live out of the past (not in the past).
Being honest about the good and bad of our history as God’s people enables us to trust God more humbly and more fully. It’s true with seasons of church conflict, with seasons of church growth, with instances of sin, and with experiences of God’s forgiveness. We shouldn’t get stuck in the past, but we should have our present part in the story shaped by what God has shown us of ourselves and of himself in the past. Our hope and prayer is that God will do that with this particular chapter of Southwood’s story where your Session, including your present senior pastor, sinned deeply and hurt many. In the midst of that same chapter, God also demonstrated his faithfulness, called men and women to himself, and built his church.
Whether or not you were at Southwood/in Huntsville during the season of church conflict, I hope this corporate confession is an occasion for you to live out of the past. I hope it is an opportunity to consider your own sin more deeply or the nature of sinful people in general, even and especially church leaders. And beyond that I hope it is an opportunity to consider in a fresh way the glory and grace of God, who is so committed to loving his children and building his church that he works through, beyond, and (gloriously) in spite of us.
Southwood, your story personally and our story together are still being written. But we can and must look honestly at the past and hopefully to the future because of the same gracious Father who has shown himself faithful in our failures and has promised to be faithful forever.