The Pulse: Something I’ve Been Learning

Bruce Springsteen sang about the “Glory Days,” and even Tennyson could not escape the shadow of love lost (“‘Tis better to have loved and lost than never to have loved at all.“). We all have powerful positive and negative experiences from the past that sometimes overshadow our present and influence our future. A traumatic season of life can create baggage we carry through every future relationship. Earlier success can create a filter that distorts all future experiences.
But, we can be shaped by our past, not defined by it. I’ve been considering what it looks like to be shaped rather than defined by the past. Here are a few indicators…
I’m defined by my past when I…
  • Fail to acknowledge painful disappointment or celebrate triumphs.
  • Uncritically react against personalities, feelings, or perspectives reminiscent of my past.
  • Continually relive seasons of success or tragedy.
  • Stick to a script of learned behavior that perpetuates bondage.
  • Inappropriately attribute or blame present realities on a past event.
I’m shaped by my past as I…
  • Learn to avoid pitfalls, temptations, or warning signs based on experience.
  • Find motivation to confront and correct harmful attitudes, systems, and actions.
  • Express gratitude for how my past has brought me to the present.
  • Intentionally choose to forgive, to confess, or to begin new behavior patterns.
  • Pivot toward the future to invest in others.
What is it from your past that exerts power in your present? If you have been defined in some way by past events, ask the Lord to use your past to shape rather than define you, then create some simple steps to begin moving in a new direction. Jesus is the one who is making all things new, and He can continue that powerful work in your life.

Titus O’Bryant
Teaching & Executive Pastor of Ministries