“Yesterday’s a closing door–you don’t live there anymore,
So say goodbye to where you’ve been, and tell your heart to beat again.”
– from “Tell Your Heart to Beat Again” by Danny Gokey –
When I was 6 or 7, I got a new bicycle.
Mom and Dad did all the things parents are supposed to do to teach kids to ride bikes. In fact, I’d been riding all manner of wheeled toys and smaller bikes for years.
But soon after I got this brand new bike, I crashed.
I was a tall, lanky little girl, and for the fellow tall people out there, you know that it takes a long time for us to fall. There’s just so much body that has to pass through the air before the ordeal is done with. In fact, that’s probably why I’m afraid of heights. Just walking around is a safety hazard.
For some reason, that bike crash put a sudden halt to all biking. For months, I refused to get back on it. Whether this was before the days of my family’s bike rides or whether my mom was just merciful and didn’t push me too hard to get back on, I didn’t get back on that skinny seat behind those pink handlebars for a long, long time.
It was a year later that I finally got up the courage to try again after my fall.
I was just a little girl who fell a few feet off a wobbly bike. Big deal. It wasn’t much of a risk. It wasn’t so scary. I certainly had the ability to get back up again, even immediately.
Instead, a year passed and I didn’t ride that bike once.
– – – – –
There are all sorts of things I could say about that lost year. I could highlight the wasted time, or camp for a while on my imagined danger. I could tell you how real and powerful that protective instinct was–so powerful that I can still feel the grasping panic of my bike-riding phobia.
But my childhood bicycling experience is not just a silly story of a child’s irrational fears. It is the story of another thing that we humans allow to define us: our Past.
For 12 months, my abilities and my choices were defined by that bike crash. It didn’t matter that I had successfully ridden bikes dozens of other times. I was too afraid that failure would happen again. I was frightened of being frightened, pained at the idea of another endless moment of falling.
The Past often paralyzes us.
Sometimes it doesn’t take the words of others to cripple us. Sometimes it just takes history.
The Past can define a person in many ways. Mistakes, failures, tragedies, habits, memories, grudges, sins, losses, even the status quo–all these relics of yesterday can profoundly shape and even control how someone lives today.
We all have stories.
I have a story. My story includes a bike wreck that led to a year of lost fun. My story includes emotional highs and lows that threaten to trip me up even this week. My story holds mistakes enough to paralyze me, and sorrows enough to scare me away from fully living.
My friends have stories. They have told me their stories of betrayal, abuse, terror, broken friendships, dysfunctional families, psychological horrors, and medical nightmares.
These things can be devastating! And they often are, because somewhere along the way, we start believing that our Past dictates our future. Even worse, we start to believe that we can never change.
And that is understandable, if you believe in closed systems and fixed pies.
The concept of a “fixed pie” is something I learned about in economics. Think about Thanksgiving dinner, when Grandma pulls out the pumpkin pie. “Fixed pie” means that there is only a certain amount of pie to go around. If Uncle Jerry takes half of the pie, all the other family members have to split up what is left. If Uncle Jerry eats the whole thing, there’s no more pie. End of story. People go away sad and hungry.
This is how people treat life. “I was this way yesterday, and I did the same things today. What makes tomorrow any different?” It’s a fixed pie. You’ve used up all the pie, and there’s no more pie to make tomorrow any different.
But I don’t believe in closed systems or fixed pies.
So let’s try another look at Thanksgiving.
Grandma brings out the pumpkin pie and there goes Uncle Jerry. Everyone is horrified that there is no more pie…and then Grandma brings out another pie…and another…and another.
She is adding pie to the “system.” It is not a closed system (meaning nothing can be added from outside). It is an open system. Grandma’s goodness (and her uncanny cooking skills) can save the day.
You see, I believe that today is a new day, and tomorrow is too. I believe that, as important as the Past is to your story, the Past doesn’t get a say in today.
But I only believe that for one reason.
You can’t add anything to “the system.” You can’t make more pumpkin pie. When a new sun rises, there’s nothing extra in you than there was yesterday.
But there is grace–the only grace that saves, from the only God who saves.
That grace says that, in Christ, you are a new creation (2 Corinthians 5:17). “My Jesus makes all things new,” as songwriter Andrew Peterson says.
That grace says the same power that raised Jesus back to life is the power that dwells inside of you, by the Holy Spirit (Romans 8:11).
Can you change today?
No. Not even a little.
But God can change you, from the inside out.
Whatever the Past is holding over your head has no power over you, if the Lifter of your head makes you new.
Do you know what being defined by the Past is?
In many cases, it is fear. It is fear of letting go of who you have been and trusting God to make you into who you will be.
Fear always robs. Fear always drives others away. And, most often, overwhelming fear brings about the very thing that most terrifies you. “If you dig a pit, you will fall into it” (Proverbs 26:27).
What is holding you back? What do you think you will never escape? What part of your past seems to control you?
I’ve got good news for you.
“Yet there is one ray of hope: his compassion never ends. It is only the Lord’s mercies that have kept us from complete destruction. Great is his faithfulness; his loving-kindness begins afresh each day. My soul claims the Lord as my inheritance; therefore I will hope in him.”
– Lamentations 3:21-24, TLB
This is not just like all the other days you’ve ever lived.
Today is the tomorrow that Anne Shirley talked about, fresh and new and free of mistakes.
Today is the new-mercies day.
Will you cling to the fears of the Past? Or will you let Jesus make all things new in you?
“Since you have heard about Jesus and have learned the truth that comes from him, throw off your old sinful nature and your former way of life, which is corrupted by lust and deception.Instead, let the Spirit renew your thoughts and attitudes. Put on your new nature, created to be like God—truly righteous and holy.”
– Ephesians 4:21-24, NLT –