What does it look like to let go of the past and “move on” into the future? Free from the entanglements of what is behind you… free from past relationships… free from past experiences… free from past failures and successes… to simply let it all go and “move on?” That’s what’s on my mind this morning… not as something I”m dwelling on, but something I’m curious about.
I have a friend who’s had everything “fall apart” on him. His wife left him. His kids went with her. His career dreams blew up in his face. He got sick – not just sick like I don’t feel well but sick as in they have to remove a portion of my organs so that I’ll survie sick. Other jobs crashed and burned. His kids are growing up around him. He couldn’t afford a place to live.
And he says he feels like everyone is telling him to just “move on.”
I asked him, one day, who this “everyone” is that is telling him this. Who is it that’s telling him that he needs to just forget about all this stuff in his life, leave his baggage at the door, and walk into a new life. I asked him if there was a single person that he knew that cared about him that said that. And of course, no, there wasn’t. No one that cared enough about him believed you could just leave those things behind. While they need not define you, they are part of you., and your past. They’ve had a hand in making you who you are.
I have a job – a business, in fact – that had a client that occupied a huge portion of our Profit and Loss statement. Without them, we wouldn’t have been able to do what we did for a living. And they sold the business. “What now,” I asked. I’ve come to be so dependent upon this monster of a customer that I don’t know how, or if, I can “move on.”
I have a relationship – well, I had one – that didn’t pan out as it’s “supposed to.” Things didn’t work out between me and this older man the way you expect it to when you’re a kid, or when you’re a grown man. Sometimes things go from ok to decent, and some times they go from bad to worse. Lately, there’s just been this sense of confirmation that I need to let go, let God, and “move on.”
My business seems so “trivial” compared to matters of life like family, health, and self esteem. And it is. But it seems that there’s a common thread here – the feeling that to move into the future we have to just ditch the past, to completely remove ourselves from it, in a way that it can no longer affect or hurt us.
I don’t feel that’s the way it has to be anymore. Frankly, I don’t feel that’s the way it SHOULD be, or CAN be. In fact, I guess if I’m honest, I believe that mindset will not free us from the past, but instead chain us to it,. because we refuse to accept what is part of our story.
My past – my friend’s past – does not define who we will become. But it has a hand in who we are right now. I have a quote – actually, I guess perhaps it’s not a quote, but it comes from a plaque that Rudy Giulliani had hanging on his wall on 9/11/01. “I am responsible,” it said. I took that, with the help of a friend and coach in my life, and turned it into this:
“I cannot change what has brought me to today, but I take responsibility for what happens tomorow.”
I can’t do anything about my client selling out. My friend can’t go back and fix something so that he won’t get sick. He can’t even go back and fix something to salvage his marriage. Until someone discovers time travel, and even then I don’t know how it would work, we simply can’t change the events that have brought us to be who we are.
And that’s ok. In fact, if we believe what we say when we say “God uses all things…” then we have to admit that it was somehow part of God’s plan for our life, and that makes it something that’s not terrible, but acceptable.
I no longer want to just “move on.” I don’t want to just replace my client with 5 other smaller clients that I do the same thing for. I want to take what I’ve learned, through success AND failure, and learn from it… apply it… use it… to become all that I can be. I want my friend to be free to look ahead in life for once. To dream again. To gain a perspective of how where he is now might STILL fit into the dreams and ideals he thought God had for him. Not “despite” what’s happened, but “in light” of it. I want to step forward from where I am in this broken relationship, not shunning it or embracing it, but accepting it for what it is.
Our past does not define us. Our past does not make us who we will become. But it does have a hand in who we are right here. For some, that’s terrifying. For others, it’s something they’re proud of. But in neither situation does the past say what you will do next.
What. Will. I. Do. Next.
THAT is the question.