Archive for May, 2016

Most of us have things from our past that we would like to forget about. So, we do. Or so we think. But our past often taints our present in surprising ways.

For example, in my childhood home, I was taught that I wasn’t very important, safe, or loved unless I was pleasing and achieving. When I lacked achievement and approval, I felt inadequate. But my feelings of inadequacy were not based on truth.

When I was 21, I left home and never fully faced these lies. I later learned that under God’s watchful care I am important, safe and loved by him all the time. But the past often leaked into my present as an adult and has made it difficult to receive God’s gift of importance, safety, and love. I still want to earn them. I still needed to face my past, put if off, and put on God’s love and grace.

Why The Past Needs to Be Faced

Our past is what has made us who we are today, both the good and the bad. The influences of family, friends, church, and society along with our choices have profoundly molded our beliefs, motives, and behaviors.

In some cases, our past and what it taught us clashes with God’s truth. For example, we may have been taught that it wasn’t okay to be who we are. But God says it is because we are his workmanship and that we are wonderful just the way we are.

Often this past leaks into our present and can affect how we feel about someone in our lives today, when we are actually responding to someone from the past that reminds us of this person. Several years ago I realized that part of my struggle working with a person in my church was that he reminded me of my dad, which was triggering unresolved father issues.

How Do We Face It?

Our goal needs to be to face our past, be healed where we need to be and to press on in being transformed and involved in God’s work in the world. To do this, we need to know ourselves well enough to determine what beliefs and habits need to be changed. For example, I felt good when someone bragged to the pastor about the group I led. I felt good because I thought I was more important because he would probably be impressed. But this thinking was from the past. The new thinking is that I am important because God tells me I am important, not because the pastor may think I am.

Our past powerfully influences us in many other subtle ways. These ways are so deep, we often need God’s help to detect false thinking and feelings. We can ask God to “Search me, O God, and know my heart; try me and know my anxious thoughts; and see if there be any hurtful way in me, and lead me in the everlasting way” (Psalm 139:23-24).

Without growing in our knowledge of God, we can’t know what part of our past needs to be changed. But this knowledge of God will need to go deep into experiencing the truth to grasp what the implications are. For example, I realized that a fear from my past of being rejected, no longer applied. Instead, of indulging an old habit and belief of fearing flaws, I rested in the truth that God would never reject me (Hebrews 13:5).

Probably the most important thing we can do to face our past is to recognize how important it is to do it. Most of us don’t do it and we suffer for it. Those of us who ignore our pasts are prone to repeat them. Trace your family tree and see how the same sins and dysfunctions seem to crop up generation after generation. One reason is that it takes a lot of courage to face the past and make the necessary changes.

One of my passions has been to pass on to my children and grandchildren a more emotionally healthy spirituality than I was handed. To a large extent this is happening. One thing that has helped me is the willingness to examine my past, compare it to biblical truth, and with God’s help, choose to act differently. May I encourage you to ask God to show you any beliefs or behaviors from your past that may be hurting the legacy that you are passing on to your family and allow him to guide you into becoming more like him.











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Being real with ourselves is not easy. Sometimes, it’s hard to admit our limits and being different from who we want to be.

I spent a good portion of my childhood focused on being who my parents and others wanted me to be. I loved the approval of others rather than being real. They wanted me to make a lot of money, be an engineer with the Caterpillar Tractor Company and to get married, have three kids and live in Illinois.

But that wasn’t who I was. It wasn’t until I got away from home and in the Air Force that I seriously looked at who I was. And then I became more real. But my parents and others didn’t like everything about the real me. Some didn’t like the fact that I became a born-again Christian and in their minds a religious fanatic. Others didn’t like my commitment to honesty, even when dishonesty would work. Still others didn’t like the fact that I wouldn’t put my job as top priority, ahead of God and family. At times, it was painful to be the real me.

Why It’s So Difficult

Being real with ourselves is difficult  because we often fool ourselves about ourselves. The Bible says, “Our hearts are deceitful above all else and are desperately sick, who can understand them?” (Jeremiah 17:9, paraphrased). For example, we may want to be a leader so we ignore the evidence about our weaknesses and over commitment ourselves. Deep within, we tend to distort reality to fit what we want it to be.

Another difficulty is that most of us don’t know ourselves enough to be real.  Because we often see ourselves through the eyes of others, we have denied desires, hopes, and characteristics that don’t meet with others approval. To be real is to discover what we have denied about ourselves, accept who we are, and be real, risking rejection from others.

Finally, our homes, schools, and society have taught us that our real selves are not that special. We are often trained unintentionally to view ourselves as largely inadequate, insignificant, and unlovable. But they are lies! Our real self is precious and greatly loved, just the way it is. God says to us, “You are precious, you are honored and I love you.” (Isaiah 43:4). But we have a difficult time accepting these truths about ourselves, which pressures us not to be real.

Picturesque landscape, fenced ranch at sunrise

How to Be Real with Ourselves

Only if we are convinced that God won’t reject us if we are real, will we have the courage to face our real selves. As long as we feel compelled to pretend to be better than we are, will will continue to live in a false self and not be real. But God has accepted us for all time, even though we are flawed (Hebrews 10:14). Understanding his acceptance helps us to be real with ourselves, others, and God.

Godly people are another important way to be real with ourselves. God uses people to overcome our blind spots and to tell us the truth about ourselves. King David refused to accept the truth about himself that he was an adulterer and murderer until Nathan the prophet was used by God to bring the brutal truth home to David, so that he could be real with himself (2 Samuel 12). Our being real with ourselves is helped by regularly fellowshipping with Christians in a small group or one-on-one where they can speak the truth to us in love.

A third way we can become real with ourselves is to meditate on the Scriptures that tell us what God thinks of us. This is who we really are. We are not who we think others think we are (James 1:22-25). By meditating on the Scriptures and depending upon the Holy Spirit’s help, we can realize that:

  • God made us unique and wants us to be ourselves (Ephesians 2:10)
  • We are very important no matter how little we produce or impress (1 Peter 2:9; John 15:5)
  • We are safe in a dangerous world because God watches over us (Psalm 23)

God made us to be ourselves. We will need his help to discover who our real self is. As we do, may we ruthlessly reject pretending to be who we are not. Let’s come out of hiding and live in our true selves that we may be real with ourselves, God, and others.













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