Day 11: Turning From Our Past


OUR HEARTS ARE A BATTLEFIELD

Many of us have been blessed enough to never have tasted the pains of war. We do however face a different war in our hearts. This war is filled with mistakes and regrets on our part that can tear us apart, if we allow them to. Below is the testimony of a solider who faced physical war and how he learned to move on from a decision that would alter his life forever.

Warning: The testimony below is somewhat graphic. Reader discretion advised.

Our foot patrol began May 27, 2012, at 3 a.m.., early enough to conceal us from the Taliban. The night provided us a major tactical advantage, and we took full advantage of it. Moving quietly, I could hear the faint sound of a metal detector beeping at the front of our patrol as a Marine searched for improvised explosive devices. Upon reaching our destination, we waited for the sun to rise. The area, a small village in Kajaki, Afghanistan, included a series of choke points and mud compounds that concealed us from a distance, but the threat of an IED became much greater.

The sun broke the horizon and we began our movement, slowly and methodically. The village’s silence concerned us. No kids ran in the streets, no elderly were in their compounds and there were very few livestock – a telltale sign of a nearby IED or pending ambush.

My next step changed my life forever

I remember being thrown airborne for what felt like an eternity. Time slowed, yet my mind raced, and as I landed headfirst, a haze of confusion washed over me. I felt no pain and could see nothing for a short time. I thought I was blind. As the dust settled, I asked myself if everyone was okay, or if someone had been wounded. As I wondered why I was laying in a crater filled with sand and uplifted rocks, I noticed a red mist settling around me. It was blood from an injury, although I did not yet realize it was mine.

It was hard to breathe as I inhaled sand floating in the air like a thick fog. I wanted to stand and see what was happening to ensure my men were all right. I went to push myself up and at that moment, I gained full clarity. I felt my left forearm snap, a crack that reverberated throughout my entire body, yet still I felt no pain. As I turned to look at my arm, my tan camouflage utility uniform rapidly turning bright red, I was disturbed more by my thoughts than the sight of my muscle and bone.

After seeing my arm, I knew pain would come next. It felt as though I was standing in a fire, and excruciating pain washed over me as I tried to roll over to see my wounds. I felt so helpless in that moment. I was blind, deaf and in such agony, all while losing my voice to call for help. With every bit of strength I had left in me, I tried to stand, possibly because the thoughts of a dying man are full of clouded judgment, or maybe it was my last effort to defy what had happened. Somehow, I knelt on my right leg; as I swung around to brace with my left, I found my voice.

The pain was unbearable as my severed femur dug into the soil. I collapsed in agony and lost consciousness, yet I was still able to hear my brothers as they rushed to my side while screaming for my corpsman. As they rolled me over, I tried to look down at my legs, but my Marines stopped me. I did not need to see my legs, though, for as I looked at their faces, I saw the horrible sights they were bearing witness to — a man lying in pieces, only part of who they once knew. [1]

Michael Egan is one of many brave men and women who have given everything to protect this country and preserve its freedoms. They return home, only to face a new battle in their minds, Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, or PTSD. In recovery, soldiers are taught the necessity of leaving their past behind. In an article written by Egan himself he writes:

We aren’t crazy, we aren’t losing touch with the reality of being back, we’re just lost. We’re unable to cope with the bits and pieces of war that is embedded into our minds and cut deep in our souls. They shake you to the core of who you are, but you don’t have to let it define you. The flashbacks may come less frequently and become less severe, but they may never go away. We can learn to conquer our demons. [2]

THE PAST

The horrors of war are incomprehensible for those of us who haven't experienced them. Our struggles cannot compare with the heartache and pain associated with such things, but the parallels of leaving our past behind hold true. We've done terrible things against God and our families, but we serve a redeemer, and He calls us to move forward in victory.

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Have you found yourself in a place of such deep guilt and shame that you wanted to give up entirely? Dark is the road that leads us there, but the detour to life is well lit. In those moments of failure, it is so easy to give up, so easy to let the darkness take us. We are not however, defined by our past. We are defined by who we are in Christ:

Yet to all who did receive him, to those who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God. -John 1:12 (NIV)

We talked in the previous lesson about sorrow and how it was different from regret and guilt. In summary, sorrow is about God and His goodness. Guilt focuses only inward at our own faults and desires. Guilt has a way of making us stupid - it can drive us to blindly give up without recognizing the truth of His word.

THE FUTURE

As a child, if I was caught doing something wrong I felt guilt, shame and regret. Why? Because I was caught and didn’t like being humiliated as a result of my own mistakes. As I grew older, I realized that this was that sinful nature responding to being dragged into the light. This exposure was and is absolutely necessary. Drag your sin into the light, expose it for what it is and it will surely die. Maybe you’ve just stumbled, or maybe it’s been a while. Since the day we gave our lives to Christ, we have been in right standing with God. That does not change when we stumble and fall. In Him, condemnation crumbles, no matter if we’ve gone four minutes without sinning, or four decades. When we repent and turn to the forgiveness that God freely offers through Christ we are renewed and made whole. He is the reason for our salvation, our hearts are void of guilt.

What does it mean to be void of guilt? It means we no longer think only of ourselves and how desperately we need to earn God's salvation. Guilt is a byproduct of our hearts not fully recognizing what grace means. Grace is undeserving, unimaginable, and beyond understanding. Children tend to make the same mistakes over and over again. Let's not be like spiritual children, continually thinking that we'll somehow earn our way into God's loving arms. Let's put away those childish things and accept grace for what it is, a free gift.

When I was a child, I talked like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I put the ways of childhood behind me. -1 Corinthians 13:11 (NIV)

Christ doesn’t want guilty followers anymore than parents want guilty children, only concerned about getting caught. What a parent wants is a child who has true, genuine heart change. Similarly, God wants us to seek him wholeheartedly, fighting daily to overcome the evil one. In doing so, we are offering our bodies as a living sacrifice to him.

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So whatever is in your past, settle with it. Bring it into the light by gently admitting sin to the loved ones who were hurt. This is not an easy thing to do, but we have to accept what we've done and move forward in victory with Christ. Jesus calls us to release our burden on Him:

Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light. -Matthew 11:29-30 (NIV)

Christ doesn't just want to carry your load, He already has carried it. We're walking around with the weight of our past on our shoulders and Jesus is standing next to us saying, "Let's trade, mine is easy and light."

HOW TO MOVE FORWARD

  • Leave the Past Behind

This is where sin belongs, in the past. By holding on to our past, we are destroying ourselves spiritually. If God is willing to let it go, why aren't we?

  • Set Daily Reminders

Remind yourself daily that Christ is the reason for our salvation and our past has no power over us. In Jesus, there is no more condemnation:

And everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved. -Acts 2:21 (NIV)

  • Reshape Your Future

The old is gone and the new has come. Live according to that truth, forgetting whatever is in your past and stepping forth with new faith and confidence in Christ.

Day 11 Application

Are you holding on to the things of your past?

Has today's lesson taught you how to let go of the past? What steps will you implement today in order to do so?

How have you spent time with God today? Have you been in contact with your accountability partner such that you were asked tough questions about purity?

Since the last lesson, how have you been with maintaining your sexual purity?