Faith Forum: Can I change the past?

Doug Heacock, contemporary worship leader and director of media and communications, Lawrence Free Methodist Church, 3001 Lawrence Ave.

Our lives are stories that unfold over time. Who among us doesn’t have regrets about something in our past — something we said or did (or didn’t say or do) that we wish we could change? But time marches on, and the events of our lives become pages of our history. I can’t change anything on those pages once they’ve been written, so to speak, but the choices I make today can significantly change the story that will be written about my life tomorrow.

I want my life’s story to be a good one — I think we all want that. And as long as there is still some of my life still remaining ahead of me, I have the opportunity to make decisions about what that story will be when it is told at the last. If you can accept the notion that human beings are given free will by God, then perhaps you can agree that you can write the story of your life, to some extent. That’s not the same thing as changing the past, but it is changing what the past might otherwise be.

The important thing here is to live with the end in sight — with the awareness that there is a “finish line” that I will cross one day, and how I choose to live between now and the time I cross that line will determine what story I look back on when I’m finally there. The scripture speaks of this: Moses (in Psalm 90) writes, “Teach us to number our days aright, that we may gain a heart of wisdom.” This suggests to me that there are wise and unwise ways to choose how to live the remaining days of our lives.

I’ve certainly lived unwisely in the past, but there is still time for some of the pages of my story to demonstrate wisdom — I’m praying for that.

— Send e-mail to Doug Heacock at doug.heacock@gmail.com

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The Rev. Paul Taylor, associate pastor, Mustard Seed Church, 700 Wakarusa Drive.

The short answer is “no.” You cannot change the past because it is now part of history, but you can change the effect that your past is having on you. It doesn’t need to control your future. Let me give you an example of what I mean.

I spoke with a woman recently who was married to an alcoholic husband for 48 years. Most of their marriage she described as being miserable. For years she believed her husband and his drinking was the chief cause of all their distress. Gradually, she allowed God to expose another truth to her heart. She was able to see that her anger, harsh words and judgment had only made things worse between them. It didn’t excuse what he had done, but the truth was they had hurt each other but in different ways.

That day the woman asked God to forgive her for her part in making their marriage such a mess. As she accepted Jesus’ forgiveness, something tangible fell from her that day. The anger and hatred she felt toward her husband for 40-plus years simply faded away. She was also able to forgive her husband for the pain his drinking brought into their family.

It’s been a couple of years since this took place, but last week, when I asked her how she was doing, she reported that the hatred toward her husband never came back. Sometime during the past two years, her husband died, but not before he gave and received forgiveness himself. By that time his wife had learned to stop keeping a laundry list of offenses that kept her life miserable. With God’s help she learned to made daily choices to become better, not bitter. You cannot change your past, but through the power of Jesus’ forgiveness, you can change the effect the past has on you.

— Send e-mail to Paul Taylor at ptaylor@mustardseedchurch.com

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