Forsaking or Flirting with Our Past

by Robert Jacobs

Everyman’s memory is his private literature. — Aldous Huxley

While I have read Huxley before, this particular quotation resurfaced in my life about mid-December. As I poured over the words on the screen, I halfway expected them to whisper some kind of deeper meaning to me. Yet nothing came.

Not to be discouraged, I refilled my coffee cup and began to truly interrogate the sentence. Clearly, the words were pregnant with meaning, but I could not for the life of me give birth to any deeper significance beyond what they simply said. After what felt like an eternity, I did want any self-respecting 21st-century person would do: I took a screenshot of the quote and moved on with my day.

I came back to the quote last week and I had a moment of realization. The way that Huxley talks about memory is how many who struggle with SSA treat their past. We may say that we reject what we did in the past, yet we hold onto those memories like treasured books, reading over them with a sense of longing.

While understanding our past is important, scripture repeatedly teaches us to move forward instead of turning to our former way of life. Paul tells the believers in Philippi, “forgetting what lies behind and reaching forward to what lies ahead, I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus” (Philippians 3:13-14). Refusing to turn back to his past, Paul presses on to be more and more like Christ.

The Psalmist of Psalm 45 also depicts the need for the believer to press forward rather than turning back. Setting up his poem as a nuptial psalm, the poet speaks directly to the bride, instructing her, “Forget your people and your father’s house, / Then the King will desire your beauty” (Psalm 45:10). While this may sound harsh to us (after all, who tells a bride to forget her father), the psalmist uses the act of marriage as a symbol. The bride is to forget the life she was born into and instead focus on her new life as the wife of the king.

Just like Paul and the Bride of Psalm 45, we are to keep our eyes fixed on our King. Though Paul’s former way of life may have been more familiar to him, he completely forsook it, “[counting] everything as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus” (Philippians 3: 8). Similarly, the Bride forsakes her place of birth, just as we forsake the sin nature that we were born into.  However, rather than forsaking our past, we often flirt with it, turning to it as a private library of events to relive through fantasy.

Have you forsaken your past or do you hold on to those memories, reliving them through fantasy when your walk with Christ gets hard? This may sound like a silly question, but when we long for our former sin and spiritual bondage, we offer an entry point for Satan to work in our hearts. Beloved of Christ, “do not give the devil a foothold” (Ephesians 4:27). Do not long for your former way of life. But instead cast all your affections on Christ and he will reciprocate with a love incomparable to any offered by this world.