Surrender

Letting Go Of The Past

Part 3 of the Surrender Series

Renewed in Surrender

Ephesians 4:22-23 “..Put off the former conversation of the old man, which is corrupt according to the deceitful lusts; And be renewed in the spirit of your mind.

The Struggle to let go

I have likened the frustrating struggle to let go of what I desperately need to rid myself of, to the well-worn trail that meandered through my grandparent’s back back yard all the way down to the gate leading into the chicken yard. My grandma always fed the feral cats that roamed freely on their farm. Even when the grass was long overdue for a mow, the one path that every single cat took to get down to the food bowl was ALWAYS visible. It began at the foot of the back porch steps, snaked alongside the old well, continued beneath the rusty chicken wire gate and stopped in front of a henpecked rubber feeding dish at the foot of the chicken yard. I am not sure why the cats chose that particular route to get to the food, but from the time I was a child, running across the lawn in my dirty bare feet, up to the day the last cat disappeared, that well-worn path was always there, in the exact same place it had always been. This “cat track” provided a path of least resistance to the free food that awaited the freeloading feline that my grandma complained about but tolerated.  I am convinced that the cats traveled this path so often, they could have found their way with blindfolded eyes and stopped up noses.

Fast forward many years since childhood and Seven years into one of the darkest and most broken seasons of my life. Without knowing how I had gotten there, I eventually found myself shattered beyond what I thoughts was repairable. My pain, compounded by Isolation, had exasperated the brokenness I was desperately trying to escape. The absence of outside counsel and help, apart from what I could muster on my own, was a perfect recipe for disaster. Though I spent half the day simply trying to survive and the other half attempting to hide that fact from everyone, I was indeed, a walking disaster, waiting to implode. My life had become like the well-worn path in my grandparent’s backyard. Even though I fervently prayed to God for relief from the fear, anxiety, and pain, the habitual processing of what I thought I saw, heard, and felt was the only way I knew how to protect the broken and hurting parts of me. 

Just when I was at the point of a physical, emotional, and spiritual breakdown, God led me to a counselor. For the first time in my life, I was no longer on my own, trying to figure out how to repair the broken pieces of my life. This counselor’s presence provided me with the opportunity to hear Truth from the perspective of someone “sitting on the back porch” as they watched me walk that well-worn path from the deck to the feeding bowl. Wise counsel and probing questions revealed a pattern of beliefs that led to habitual responses to pain and triggers that drudged up the past. This cycle, trapping me inside a prison of pain and fear, not the freedom and peace I desperately cried out to God for on a daily basis.

My counselor saw what I could not. In my journey, I was just like the barnyard cats. Sometimes I willingly searched for the familiar memories, feelings, and events. I felt the need to replay them in my mind, believing it would help me make sense of what I had experienced. On bad days, I willingly revisited the past in order to justify the dark place where my heart decided it wanted to reside.  Other times the past crept up from behind, blindsiding me in the midst of a normal, carefree day. Though I had done nothing wrong, a mere word, memory, or photo would trigger and drudge up the past I was desperate to escape. Imprisoned once more by unrelenting fear, anxiety, and anger, a good day quickly became a day of torture and torment.  There were even days I prepared and valiantly fought like mad to get off the old warn path that I knew I shouldn’t be on, only to jump back on in defeat, when exhaustion and hopelessness from trying to forge a new path overcame me.

John 8:32 “And you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.”

The truth he spoke into my life was like water to a parched soul, but it was still an agonizing journey to enter into that healing process to find, forge, and walk in the freedom I had almost given up fighting to obtain. Unconscious habits had to be replaced with intentional and exhausting efforts to forge a new path and a new way of thinking. A spiritual, emotional, and mental renewal of my mind was the only way to freedom. At first, no matter how diligently I recited verses and statements of truth, my mind instinctively wandered back to the path of least resistance. Without effort, familiar fears, anxieties, and accusations inhabited the spaces I had fought so passionately to clear out. Gradually, a new path became visible while the old path began to fade. The Truth was the only thing that could erase the old familiar path to the feeding bowl of misery and brokenness. Only freedom could help me forge a new path that lead to freedom. The steps and process that forged the new and erased the old are for another day and another blog, but I am here to testify that it is possible and the process one of the most beautiful chapters God has written in my life story. 

Romans 12:2  instructs us,

“Do not conform to the pattern (ie. paths) of this world,

but be transformed by the renewing of your mind.

Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—

his good, pleasing and perfect will.”

If my story sounds a lot like yours, take heart. There is hope! Beauty from ashes is possible and joy can replae mourning! God’s desire for your life is that you find and forge a new path that leads to fullness of life, freedom, and healing. Reject the temptation to isolate yourself from others. Open up to a counselor and trusted friends who will love you well and love you unselfishly. Reach up, cry out, and drink deep in faith the words of truth God speaks into your soul through His word, His people, and His Spirit.

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