The piles of snow from the plows are almost melted away. The robins have returned, crocuses are blooming, and gentle rains are turning the grass from brown-gray to that lovely shade of early spring green. A week or so ago, unusually warm weather caused me to open the windows to let in the fresh air and the sweet smell of spring.
“It’s time for spring cleaning!” I thought. “There’s so much to do!”
But, at that point–I’m almost ashamed to admit it–my Christmas decorations were still up.
Last weekend, I finally took down and put away our Christmas trees (which had turned into Valentine trees). I needed help to deal with it all, as well as lots of time and energy–all of which were not available in the weeks after Valentine’s Day. Besides, at that time, snow was still falling outside and the warm lights on the tree inside made the house feel cozy. Dealing with the remnants of my Christmas decorations became something to put off for one reason or another until I could stand it no longer.
Before I could move forward with any spring cleaning (and putting up any spring decor), it was necessary to deal with what I’d been holding onto from the last season.
I was reminded of how this can be true in life as well. Holding onto remnants of our past can keep us from moving on to what God has for us in the present and future.
How many of us put off dealing with…
painful memories or the guilt of past mistakes
sinful behaviors or bad habits
…because quite simply, we’re not ready to put them away?
I looked back at a poem I’d written at a time in my life where I need to “pack up” from an old season in my life and move on to the new. The first two stanzas are telling:
Lord, time may dull, but can’t erase,
All my mind tends to retrace
In corners of a special place
That once I called my home.
Though memories are rife with trial,
I linger there a little while
On moments sweet and sadly smile…
Why, oh why do we tend to hang on to such memories, playing and replaying them, reliving the sadness or injustice we felt? Perhaps we’ve become too “cozy” with the familiar feelings they bring. Perhaps because as a “victim” we feel excused from moving on and trying again. Perhaps we want to procrastinate on making the needed resolutions and changes. Perhaps it’s still too painful to deal with them.
As wistful memory turns to ache
For what I miss but must forsake–
A new direction I must take.
But how can one forget the past,
With memories deep, and sweet and vast—
How long, O Lord, will sadness last?
Long the nights that I have tossed,
And grieved for what I’ve loved and lost—
I know at last how great the cost.
For goodness sake, put the self-pity to rest! Pack it up and put it away! It’s high time to move on! Forget those things and reach forward!
“Not that I have already attained, or am already perfected; but I press on, that I may lay hold of that for which Christ Jesus has also laid hold of me. Brethren, I do not count myself to have apprehended; but one thing I do, forgetting those things which are behind and reaching forward to those things which are ahead, I press toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.” Philippians 3:12-14
For myself, as I consider the new opportunities the Lord has placed in front of me in this new season, I have prayed, “Lord, help me to leave the past in the past. Help me pack up the remnants I am holding on to from the previous season in my life and place them firmly in Your capable Hands! I can’t pretend they aren’t there any longer. I can’t work around them. I can’t move on with what You have for me to do with this clutter in my life!”
In faith I’m answering Your call;
When serving You, I must give all,
No looking back, no serving small.
Forgetting things which are behind,
I look with hope and then I find
Your Word affirms– renews my mind.
Now moving on, in faith I dare
To trust You, God, I know You care;
You see my heart, You’ve answered prayer.
So here’s another thing: Last weekend, after I’d packed everything away, I cleaned the house. I thought I’d done a fairly good job. But…a new day came and the sun brought dust to light I hadn’t realized was still there. Even after I thought I’d dealt with everything, a layer of dust had settled on my furniture. In the same way, I’ve found that God has a way of shedding light on areas in my heart to expose clinging dust. Not only the dust of bitterness and resentment, but the clingy dust of doubt and fear. I’d dealt with them, I thought, but the dust had obviously resettled.
Now fear would hold me as a chain—
Afraid to lose what I might gain;
Afraid to love– its end is pain.
Yet, this the path I’m called to tread
So, Lord, I trust in You instead
Of fearing what might lie ahead.
Your work has seasons calm and cruel
Where faith and fear will always duel.
May faith become my crowning jewel,
In heav’n, my final home.
I’m not home yet. Neither are you. There is much work to be done before then! Seasons will come and go, and if we are to serve the Lord with our whole heart, we must adjust to meet the new challenges and opportunities God brings with each one. “Thank you, Lord, for Your patience with Your children. Thank you for directing my eyes, through Your Word, to the ‘spring cleaning’ that needed to be done in my life. Could it be that another needs to hear and respond in the same way? Unto You be all the praise!”
Psalm 66:8-12; 16-20
Praise our God, all peoples,
let the sound of His praise be heard;
He has preserved our lives
and kept our feet from slipping.
For You, God, tested us;
You refined us like silver.
You brought us into prison
and laid burdens on our backs.
You let people ride over our heads;
we went through fire and water,
but You brought us to a place of abundance.
Come and hear, all you who fear God;
let me tell you what He has done for me.
I cried out to Him with my mouth;
His praise was on my tongue.
If I had cherished sin in my heart,
the Lord would not have listened;
but God has surely listened
and has heard my prayer.
Praise be to God,
Who has not rejected my prayer
or withheld His love from me!