Friday, January 10, 2014

Letting go

One of the hardest things we must learn to face as human beings is dealing with our past by letting go of things we cannot change. All of us face things in our lives that we wish could have turned out differently, where we wish we'd done something else, said something else, anything to avoid having to face the fact that we are still greatly upset over something that may have happened a long time ago.

I have realized that my biggest character flaw is my inability to accept things in life that I cannot change and to relax. Relaxing means accepting things as they are around you, accepting that not everything needs your distinct control and input and that things can cope on their own without your influence. It means that you have to have faith in others and in your surroundings to do the right thing without you distinctly telling everyone exactly what to do and where and how to do it. I've found it almost impossible to accept anything at face value and simply believe in anything and trust that my belief is not going to be betrayed.

I've also realized that this character flaw is based on a desire to change both the past and the future. It's mainly based in a desire to change the future so that there's no chance that the future could ever feel as bad as what the past does. However, this is a self defeating strategy. If I go out of my way to try to change the future so it doesn't bring up old feelings about the past, all I am really doing is protecting the way that I am already feeling instead of facing it. It's an art of managing and compartmentalizing negative feelings rather than openly admitting them and coming to terms with them. Putting old feelings into a box so that you never have to face them means that you leave unhealed areas in your heart and soul that subconsciously drain your energy and leave you feeling fatigued.

What has helped me begin to change my thinking in this area is to think about Jesus and what He went through on the cross. He could easily have chosen to not face up to the fact that His own creation (the human race) had fallen and chosen to sit and wish that He could have somehow changed the past to stop it from happening. Instead, He chose to accept what had happened, as much as He didn't like it, and chose to love us enough anyway that His plan for the human race was to change overnight. The new plan for the human race involved His death on a cross and though it was the worst possible thing He could ever go through, He chose to change everything based on what we had done. God chose to respond to our actions rather than to just react to them, or refuse to even acknowledge them altogether.

There's a big difference here regarding things that happen which upset us - we can either react to them out of frustration that our own prideful desires to make things the way that we want them have failed, or we can respond to them in humility and realize that we are not God. We do not know the future, we don't control everything and we don't get to decide exactly how everything pans out. We don't know the beginning from the end. Only God knows that - even if He's not in control of people's actions directly, He still knows the beginning from the end and is able to work around it. To react is to show we are angry at life and ourselves because our own pride has not provided us the outcome we wanted. To respond is to show that we have a greater faith in a God who is in control of both the present and the future and that He loves us and has our best interests at heart. To respond to a person rather than react to what they've done is to show genuine love for them. If God had just chosen to react to the fall of man in the Garden of Eden, we'd all be dead. But He chose to respond and reach out to us anyway. Of course, there are times when reaching out to people is dangerous and there are times when ties with people need to be cut because of what's happened - but overall we should try to respond to people in love when possible rather than react in anger and frustration because our own bubble of illusion about our own self importance and ability to control things has been popped.

This has made me realize how important it is to learn that I myself cannot control the future and that there are things that are going to happen to me and things that I am going to do which are irreversible and will result in a changed life for me and others. It is important for me to begin to realize that my efforts to try and control the future so it will never end up feeling like the past are futile and are draining my energy. It is important for me to realize that a changed future from the path that I originally set out and planned for myself is not always a bad thing and that sometimes going in a new and unexpected direction can turn out to be the best possible thing for someone. Because of some of the spiritual baggage I have carried around with me over the years I have become deeply afraid that if I just sit back and let things happen and let someone else take control and relax and just let things be, that the outcome will be the most horrifying, soul destroying, irreversible thing imaginable and that I will somehow be to blame for not doing my best to prevent it and that I will live in regret for eternity because I didn't do something to prevent this awful thing.

The truth is - we cannot change the past. We can only change the way that we feel about the past. We can change our future - but we must be willing enough to realize that for all of our planning and control there are things that we cannot simply plan for and have to learn to trust God in. I've found it much easier to trust in myself and my own planning to protect myself from a future that may feel like my past. Because of some of the things that have happened to me over the past few years I have become very afraid of trusting God with my future as I half expect Him to bring something terrible into my life because it's something else that I need to go through in order to help me realize the parts of me that still need divine healing, but I have to remind myself that the time of suffering in my life is very nearly at an end.

I also have to realize that if I am ever going to heal completely from all that has happened over the years I will need to learn to accept the past in full and accept that these things have happened and cannot be changed. Thinking that I can somehow change the past to suit what I want or that I will somehow bring about a different outcome if I stew on it enough is wrong and negative thinking and is just leaving me going around in circles. It's hard to come to terms with this but it simply has to be done. I lost a relationship with a close friend recently who proved that they weren't interested in the spoken word of God even though they constantly went out of their way to say that God's truth was more important to them than anything. I felt betrayed, mocked and deeply let down. This blow was very hard to take as this was a friendship I thought I would have for the rest of my life yet I was left with no choice but to walk away from it. I have no choice but to come to terms with what has happened and realize that I cannot change it. I cannot hold on to the past - the friendship we had before - because it no longer exists. I cannot change things and I certainly cannot control that person's response. All I can do is respond to their actions even if it hurts me and change the course of the friendship as a result.

Planning is something I have found immense safety in over the years. I love to be able to plan for things and work out just how everything is going to go. I don't find that I cope particularly well when something happens that's completely unexpected and throws a spanner into the works. Instead of focusing on responding to the change, dealing with the spanner in the works and altering the course of my plans if I need to, my default reaction has been to fly off the handle at the change that has dared happen without my specific consent. I have realized that this method of operating is useless. Life does not take prisoners. There are things that happen that come completely out of the blue that cannot be changed and can alter the course of our life's path because God and the world are far bigger than we are and our own little boxed in plans for our lives. The sooner we come to terms with this and learn to relax in a world we know we cannot fully control, the sooner we will reach a greater place of peace and contentment as human beings.

So, if you're a planner like me, you may have identified with something in this blog. I hope that you take something from this and feel encouraged in some way. You're not alone in your journey.

Take care.

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