We are neck deep in the holiday season and for a lot of people the stress is starting to take its toll. Isn’t it ironic (to quote another song) how human beings can somehow take a season designated as joyful, uplifting and meaningful and turn it into a debt-inducing, commercialized, stress-riddled, over-indulgent, month-long marathon?
It says a lot about human nature that we seem to always be doing things like that. You know the old cliché that if a little of something is good then a whole lot of it would be even better? That usually doesn’t work out so well, but we just keep on trying it, don’t we?
In spite of all that I actually enjoy this time of year. Okay, not all of it, but most of it. I manage to do that by trying to focus on what’s really important and what we’re actually supposed to be celebrating in the first place.
Personally I like how to celebrate the birth of Jesus and then turn right around to kill off the old year and welcome in a new one. Why? Because you can’t make a fresh start until you’ve first laid to rest the things from your past. Those old memories that continue to pursue and haunt you.
Everyone has what we call baggage and the older you get, the more of it you accumulate. In fact most of us are huffing and puffing and wondering why we can’t make any progress in becoming better people while ignoring that two-mile-long baggage train we’re trying to pull.
How’s that working out for you? Probably not too well. If you don’t believe me, just try dragging that puppy uphill for a while and see how you feel. Everyone would like to have a new start now and then but, sadly, most of us fail to successfully make one.
Why? Because in our haste to move on, we’re missing one critically important fact. You cannot move forward till you make peace with your past. You have to uncouple yourself from the old baggage train, or at least much of it, to make any real forward progress at all.
Or, in other words, you have to look back before you can really move forward. When thinking about this I’m always reminded of this ancient quote: “Brothers, I do not consider that I have made it my own. But one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead.” Philippians 3:13 (ESV)
I try not to quote the Bible in this column, but Paul’s wisdom is just too good at this point to ignore. He says he’s doing one thing and then mentions two things! Why? Not because he can’t understand this new math they’re teaching nowadays, but because the ‘one thing’ consists of two parts: forgetting the past and then moving forward. You have to do both or you aren’t going anywhere.
In the midst of winter, which has long been used as a metaphor of death, we are taught that only by letting our pasts die can we move forward into a new and brighter tomorrow.
So in the midst of all your holiday celebrations this year I hope you’ll take a gander at the baggage train you’re pulling. Is it time to deal with it, drop all the old, useless, painful memories so you can have room to build new and better ones?
I hope so. Only by letting go can we make room in our hearts to embrace what’s coming. And what’s coming? Only the rest of our lives. Don’t miss that because you’re too bogged down by your baggage to welcome a new beginning.
Louie Marsh is pastor of Christ’s Church on the River on the Parker Strip. Visit the website HERE.