Surpassing the Past


“Your blessings lay beyond your fear.” — Shannon L. Alder

My entire body visibly shook as I poked my toe into the crisp water. Gentle ripples playfully lapped at my legs as I braced myself for further submersion. With teeth clenched and hands held high, I stepped downward into the pool; the frigid water in stark contrast to the torrid heat of the day.

I was spending a few days with a girlfriend at a vacation condo in Orlando. Sunbathing in the Florida sun was at the top of our “to-do” list, however, one can only withstand bearing the resemblance of a fried egg in a skillet for so long. Eventually, you’d gladly surrender your left foot for a cool water reprieve. So, to the pool I went.

I soon realized I had the audience of an attractive, elderly woman who was standing waist-deep in the shallow end near my point of entry. She flashed a genuine smile my way and chuckled at my delicate, dawdling attempts to force my way further into the pool. Finally, enough was enough. With a deep breath and a gentle bounce, I was in.

“Whoo-hoo!” I shouted to my elderly comrade. “Once you get in, it’s great, buy boy it’s tough to get into that water.”

“Well, at least you can get your head wet–I can’t even do that.”

Blinking the water from my eyes, I wrinkled my nose, wondering what on earth this woman was talking about. I tilted my head to one side, slicking back my wet hair.

“What do you mean?”

“Well, I can’t put my head underwater.” She seemed eager to offer an explanation.

“When I was a little girl, my brother dunked me in the water, holding my head under. Ever since then, I can’t get my head wet.” She went on to describe how she never learned to swim, and how even now–all these years later, her granddaughter made attempts to teach her, but to no avail.

Pfft. Well, that’s just absolutely ridiculous. My first thought was of mild disgust. How could she hold on to that for so long, allowing that singular event to shape her response to such a simple thing in life, and even denying her granddaughter’s  attempts to help her?

Not so fast, Dawn. Instant snapshots of my life flashed before my mind. Events of rejection, embarrassment, hurt . . . shame. Events seemingly ridiculous to some, nonetheless causing me to become “stuck” for a while. Even now, I sometimes allow negative thoughts and fear to contribute to the outcome of my life.

The good news? God is in the business of helping us become “un-stuck”. He longs to help equip us with the courage to change things that should be changed in our lives, so our past events are just that–events, rather than our identity.

Hear what God says:

“And I will give you a new heart, and a new spirit I will put within you. And I will remove the heart of stone from your flesh and give you a heart of flesh.”  Ezekiel 36:26 (ESV)

In this context, a heart of flesh refers to a pliable, teachable heart, in opposition to stone.

In the book of Philippians, the writer, Paul, shares his secret of being content in any and every circumstance:

“I can do everything through Him who gives me strength.”  Phil. 4:13

Did you catch that? It speaks of God giving us a willing, teachable spirit, and of providing us with the strength to develop skills of new thinking patterns and behaviors. In other words, a big key factor here is our willingness to make changes.

We have to want it.

At times, this can occur easily. In other circumstances, it may take time and hard work to let go of those feelings and experiences holding us captive. We can draw from the power of God’s word to help us break through the lies that keep us stuck.

As I spoke with the lady in the pool, I shared a story from my childhood. I grew up spending every summer in a cottage on a lake. Fishing was part of our daily routine, whether by boat, canoe or dockside. On one occasion, my dad wanted to teach us kids what to do if we tipped over in a boat. So, when we were all in the canoe, he tipped it over. Completely upside-down. With no warning. Unfortunately, I allowed that event to traumatize me to the point of refusing to get into any boat. For a few years, I vowed to never set foot in a boat, nor specifically a canoe, again. I became stuck.

I was reminded, time and again, of how much “water” was a part of my life. I eventually mustered the courage to step into a boat again, and finally, a canoe. I realize now, if I hadn’t accepted that event in my past as part of my story and determined myself to move on, I would’ve missed out on future events of water-skiing, kayaking, deep-sea fishing, and whitewater rafting.

So, where do you find yourself today? Is your past your present at the moment? You don’t have to stay there. Period.

Lord, I pray for Your strength and confidence today. Help me become un-stuck, and to not use my past as an excuse not to grow. With Your help, I choose not to be a victim of my circumstances, but rather, to become stronger, growing more fully into who You created me to be. 


2 thoughts on “Surpassing the Past

  1. All so true. It’s amazing to me how God can use so much of my messy life and mistakes to make me a better Follower of Christ. The wanting changes everything.
    So glad I found you on COMPEL!

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