DON’T LET YOUR PAST STAND IN THE WAY OF YOUR FUTURE


By Akin Ojumu

Lately, I have been unusually loquacious about my past. For those who regularly follow my musings on social media, you’d have noticed that, in the past couple of days, I have cranked the window open, ever so slightly, into some of my life’s experiences during my college days and early adult life. If you are one of those keen observers of this space and have picked up on your well attuned radar on these my reminiscences, you are absolutely spot on. 

Indeed, this has been a week of reflection for me. From time to time – maybe not as often as I should – I slip into a state of rumination that surprises even myself. At such rare moments, I find myself pondering about life in general, thinking about what should have, could have, or would have.

Perhaps it is midlife crisis or old age, I cannot tell you the reason for my contemplative melancholia, and that’s because I do not know why I fall into this state. But whatever the reason, thinking about these things has brought to fore feelings long suppressed and memories unconsciously repressed. Like stirring up a latent volcano, dredging up the past has helped punch a hole in my façade of assured tranquility. 

You’d think that is a bad thing, right? I won’t fault you if you thought digging up all these things from the past would have deleterious effects and serve no good purpose. To which I'd say, I agree with you completely. Bringing up the past can be unhealthy for sure. In certain situations, it is better to just let the sleeping dog lie. And for some people, it is more practical to just let the past stay buried. 

Unfortunately, though, the reason many people don’t want to confront the past is because they are scared of the carcass they might dig up. The searing pain of bygone years is still so raw, some folks would rather keep it canned in the jar of agony than open it up and let out the agonizing paroxysm. You often hear folks say, “All I want to do is let it go and move forward.”

Sadly, we deceive ourselves if we think the past is in the past simply because it is locked away. We cannot escape our past by pretending it doesn’t exist. Many don't even realize that what we are today is a byproduct of all our pasts. The past, if left unaddressed, follows us everywhere we go. Like a virulent airborne virus, it infects every aspect of our lives. Our marriage, our family, our jobs, our health, our faith, our friendships are all impacted by the past we thought we have locked up in a maximum security prison deep within our soul. Whether we like it or not, the past we thought we had bottled up is in reality seeping into our present and polluting our future. 

As humans, we all walk around dragging along the weight of the doubts we feel about ourselves and we are scared to death of having them confirmed. The past is the source of all of our doubts and our childhood experiences have a way of creating a monster that can swallow our growth. The past, if not properly dealt with, has a way of standing in the way of our destiny.

This might sound harsh, but I believe it is the truth. And the truth, as they say, is bitter. To truly heal, a man must stand face to face with the hurts of yesteryears. If you want to exorcise the demon of the past, you must be willing to tackle it mano-a-mano. There can be no moving forward without the cutting loose of the weight of the past. Many of the unresolved issues in our past are the reason our marriages fail, and why we struggle to find true happiness in life. They are why we appear to be bitter all the time and flyoff the handle at the slightest provocation. All sorts of criminal and destructive behaviors have a direct link to what happened in the past.

In his play titled “Agamemnon”, the ancient Greek playwright Aeschylus wrote, “He who learns must suffer. And even in our sleep, pain that cannot forget falls drop by drop upon the heart, and in our own despair, against our will, comes wisdom to us by the awful grace of God.”

Dealing with the past ain’t beanbag. I’d be lying if I told you otherwise. It isn’t pretty, it can be pretty painful and emotionally unpalatable. However, the only way to learn from our past is to be truthful about them, first to ourselves and then to others that are affected or impacted. It is only when we feel free to talk about hurts of the past without any sense of shame that we are released from them. Unless we are willing to engage the baggage of the past without getting bogged down in self-condemnation and self-pity, we cannot be truly free from their clutches. 

If you want to break free from the hold of the past on your present, you must unlock and neuter it. To immune your future from the virus of the past, you must acknowledge it’s real and deal with it. The venom of the past will remain as potent as ever until you are willing and ready to defang it.

But let me assure you of one thing. You are much more than the hurt and pain of your past. You are not your past mistakes. Do not let the shortcomings and failures of years past define your future. The Almighty God is greater that the mountain that is in your past. 

This song by Josh Groban, “You Raise Me Up”, was playing non-stop in my headphones as I was writing this. It was actually the aspiration for this write-up. The song is simple yet powerful. It ministered to me a great deal. I hope it does the same for you. May the LORD raise you up above what you thought you can be.

_________________________________

You Raise Me Up
Josh Groban

[Verse 1]
When I am down and, oh my soul, so weary
When troubles come and my heart burdened me
Then, I am still and wait here in the silence
Until you come and sit a while with me

[Chorus]
You raise me up, so I can stand on mountains
You raise me up, to walk on stormy seas
I am strong, when I am on your shoulders
You raise me up, to more than I can be

[Chorus]
You raise me up, so I can stand on mountains
You raise me up, to walk on stormy seas
I am strong, when I am on your shoulders
You raise me up, to more than I can be

You raise me up, so I can stand on mountains
You raise me up, to walk on stormy seas
I am strong, when I am on your shoulders
You raise me up, to more than I can be

[Chorus]
You raise me up, so I can stand on mountains
You raise me up, to walk on stormy seas
I am strong, when I am on your shoulders
You raise me up, to more than I can be

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