Learning the unforced rhythms of grace


Files and Faith


Some people say, “Let the past stay in the past”.

It’s an interesting concept but it doesn’t really work. Everything we do in the present has been affected by the past and is now shaping the future. It is all connected, whether we like it or not.

Watch a movie, see how the characters develop. They are often stuck in the present, unable to move forward because of something from their past. The only way for them to move past it, is to face it, and often, to have other people speak a new meaning into it for them. This allows them to use it as a launching pad forward. Or read Scripture! Watch how Moses was stuck in the present, living as a Hebrew man in an Egyptian palace, unable to embrace either identity as his own. When he saw an Egyptian guard beating a Hebrew slave, he reacted out of anger and killed the guard. He fled and retreated to the desert not yet knowing who he was, what his purpose was and what God had in mind for him. His ‘present’ was stuck, his ‘past’ was influencing it and his ‘future’ was without focus.

This is where I believe God invites us to be with him: in the present, with our past, looking toward the future.

Imagine, that our lives, every moment, including the sentence I’ve just written, is in a ‘past’ filing cabinet. We’d each have one of our own. It would contain our stories, events and conversations, emails, thank you notes, threats, losses and joys, successes, failures, friendships, insecurities, thoughts, dreams and fears. Every little bit. Feeling uncomfortable yet? Ya, me too. But stay with me . . .

God knows all of it. So being that we’re in a relationship with him, it would be foolish to pretend he doesn’t. He does. So when we spend time with him in prayer, on walks, while we’re singing worship songs in church, He’s aware of it all. If we don’t acknowledge this, then it’s like we throw a blanket over the cabinet, put a nice smelling candle on top, maybe some flowers or a cool thing we found at the thrift shop. We might slide a big plant in front and then suggest that for our ‘prayer time’, we go for a walk outside, where it’s a little less cluttered and nicer.

I imagine that God’s invitation looks different from that.

I imagine that he would make a cup of coffee for the two of us, bring over a couple of comfy chairs, slide the plant a little to the right and see if I’m willing to remove the blanket from the filing cabinet, candle and thrift store item. I imagine he is patient and determined. And I imagine that this is where it gets a bit uncomfortable. We might feel a lump in our throat, tears in our eyes and do some anxious tapping on the edge of our coffee cup. The deep question begins to rise as we stare at that cabinet . . . am I loveable? as is.

It’s too much. We jump up, cover the cabinet, and try to secure that our future will be better than the past. We do things to avoid mistakes, manage people’s opinions of us, skirt around fear and minimize damage. Yet God invites us just to sit back down and breathe.

He has things to say . . .

We’re loved, we’re forgiven, we’re free. We’re not alone. God’s spirit is in us, guiding, comforting, correcting. The future is the past redeemed, re-purposed and renamed. It is not shameful, it is a story that is alive with the hope of God’s grace and truth.

Faith, I believe, is about sitting with those files, in that chair, with God, and removing the cover on our past. It is allowing him to do his best work in our lives, in his way, in his timing, freeing us from the confusing drivenness of our present and launching us forward into a hopeful future.

Just imagine what God might have in mind!