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Looking Backwards/Looking to the Past

“Some of us live in the past, our lives driven by memories of some powerful experience, defining event, or former relationship. Past-oriented people mix their present choices and relationships with a reality that no longer exists. They steer through life following the dictates of something or someone gone by. Perhaps we become fearful victims of childhood trauma, or cynical and bitter after a betrayal, or simply dwell in memories of better times. When we choose to inhabit such ghost towns, we try to make the present fit a bygone past. However, the Lord tells us, “No man, having put his hand to the plow, and looking back, is fit for the kingdom of God” (Luke 9:62). He adds, “Remember Lot’s wife” (Luke 17:32). On the verge of escaping tragedy, she is unable to move ahead because she chooses to glance backward instead (Gn 19:26).” (Dynamis 11/24/2020)

“Our continual mistake is that we do not concentrate upon the present day, the actual hour, of our life; we live in the past or in the future; we are continually expecting the coming of some special moment when our life will unfold itself in its full significance. And we do not notice that life is flowing like water through our fingers, sifting like precious grain from a loosely fastened bag. Constantly, each day, each hour, God is sending us people, circumstances, tasks, which should mark the beginning of our renewal; yet we pay them no attention, and thus continually we resist God's will for us…If we accepted every hour of our life as the hour of God's will for us, as the decisive, most important, unique hour of our life – what sources of joy, love, strength, as yet hidden from us, would spring from the depths of our soul!” (Fr. Alexander Elchaninov)

“There are probably no two things that rob people of the joy of living and the experience of God’s blessings more easily than remembrance of the past and worry about the future. Some live unhappy lives wrapped in anger and resentment over past wrongs. The memory of an offense committed in the past, or an event that left them hurt or disappointed, grips their day-to-day life and colors it in anger and resentment. The inability to forgive or forget causes them to see the world as owing them something. So blinded are they by this anger that they fail to see all the good things that surround them every day. Rather than experiencing today, they dwell on the past and with each passing day become more angry, more resentful and more cynical.” (V. Rev. Stephen Rogers)

“We have to learn to separate the past from present. When we are successfully able to do this, to put everything in it’s proper place, we will be amazed at how much better we feel. We will feel more calm, at peace, in the present, and confident. In essence we learn to troubleshoot ourselves. This is an ascetical activity. The ability to separate the past and the present and the insight and self-knowledge needed to do this can only help us spiritually and reveal the areas of our life that need addressing so we can continues our spiritual growth unimpeded.” (Fr. Joshua Makoul)

“Find the gold. Whatever has happened to you in the past, and whatever is happening in your life now, look for the hidden blessing, the lesson to be learned, or the character trait to be forged. Trust that, since God has allowed these experiences, somewhere there is gold for you.” (Elizabeth George)

“St. Paul points out that God made His promises to Abraham, promises that would eventually come to their fruition in the person of Jesus Christ, before He gave the Law [Galatians 3:15-22]. From this, St. Paul shows that though sin and the resulting condemnation are real, and repentance is necessary, that God's grace and the inheritance of the Kingdom that we receive in Christ is far, far greater than that condemnation. It is often difficult as Christians to keep both of these poles in mind at once. Some struggle under a heavy burden of felt condemnation, even after confessing sins and receiving absolution, unable to forget the past. Some seek to constantly dwell in the warm glow of God's Love but do so by ignoring or papering over their sinfulness and actions they are taking that are harming themselves and others.’ (Father Stephen De Young)

“Last year is past, gone, finished. It is over. In the heart and mind of God, the year ahead is intended to be a fruitful season, advantageous, beneficial, auspicious. It is a time of fulfillment at the hand of Him who keeps promises Is 61:2). Maybe the problem in the past was that we were looking for advantages and benefits in the wrong place. Christ our God yearns to comfort and recompense us for all that we have lost because of our sins or the sins of another (Is 61:2).” (Dynamis 9/26/2019)

“To be involved with God the first thing each day centers us on what is important. In addition, it helps us to be awake to the day stretching out before us, one which may be our last. And finally, morning silence and solitude can enable us to better come to our senses and be in the now. This is especially important so we don’t miss those interpersonal encounters that might bring us closer to God if we weren’t nostalgically reflecting on the past or preoccupied with the future.” (Robert J. Wicks)

“…knowing God puts life in perspective, allowing us to release the mistakes of the past and the worries of the future.” (Father Barnabas Powell)

“Through the forgiveness of sins in confession, the past is no longer an intolerable burden but rather an encouragement for what lies ahead. Life acquires an attitude of expectation, not of despondency; and confession becomes the way out of the impasse caused by sin.” (Greek Orthodox Archdiocese)“Looking back­wards would seem to imply the fate of Lot's wife (Genesis 19.26); 'No one who puts his hand to the plow and looks back is fit for the kingdom of God" (Luke 9.62). God Him­self is revealed before us and walks in front of us. "One thing I do, forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead" (Philippians 3.13).” (Greek Orthodox Archdiocese)

“Looking too much to the past and hanging on to it at the expense of moving forward is dangerous to our mental well-being and spiritual growth. Lot’s wife looked to her past and turned into a pillar of salt. Lot and his daughters escaped destruction by continually moving forward.” (Sacramental Living Blog)

“The worst battle we fight is in the mind. If you live in the past you will never be the person you are supposed to be in your future.” (Robert Osborne)

“Getting over a painful experience is much like crossing monkey bars. You have to let go at some point in order to move forward…We must try to take life moment by moment. The actual present is usually pretty tolerable, I think, if only we refrain from adding to its burden that of the past and the future. How right Our Lord is about “sufficient to the day.” (C. S. Lewis)

“Our doubts and worries rob us of so much. They make the small shadows on the wall into huge phantasms about to swallow us whole. But the truth is that much of what we fear are either illusions or are realities that are not as terrible as we imagine…Too often we live not in the present but in the past or a feared future. If our eyes were truly open, we would see that our world is not as dark as we think it.” (Anne Marie Gazzolo)

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