I’m going to put the next Conversation with Peter on pause for this week….or maybe today. This week it’s about our pasts, present and future. The embedded clip is from Star Trek Deep Space Nine episode 1. I’m a bit of a sci fi geek and this has been one of my favorite show in the Star Trek Series. In this scene Sisko is having a conversation with the “prophets” and they point out that he “exists” in the place where his wife died. I was really looking for the end of this scene, but haven’t been able to find it, but I found the scripting and this is how it ends:
SISKO: I never left this ship.
JENNIFER: You exist here.
SISKO: I exist here. I don’t know if you can understand. I see her like this every time I close my eyes. In the darkness, in the blink of an eye, I see her like this.
JENNIFER: None of your past experiences helped prepare you for this consequence.
SISKO: And I have never figured out how to live without her.
JENNIFER: So you choose to exist here. It is not linear.
SISKO: No. It’s not linear.
(and he finally starts to grieve properly)
Many of us experience heartbreak and disappointment. How do we respond when our time comes for this. Many of us get stuck in that moment. In the case of Sisko, he realizes he never left the ship emotionally. It takes the intervention of “The prophets” who are non corporeal beings to help him realize it. The line “none of your past experiences helped prepare you for this consequence” is a powerful statement. When we come to the point of our heartbreak/disappointment/disaster, etc, we come to the realization that none of our past experiences helped prepare us for the consequences of our decision/actions. If we step back and analyze, many of our heartbreak come as a direct consequence of our own actions or decisions. A lot of times, we are the victims of other people’s actions or decisions which makes the heartbreak/disappointment even harder to accept but we still have the choice in how we respond to that heartbreak and disappointment. That’s taken me awhile to realize to be honest, that even if someone else made a bad decision based off of my bad decision, I still have the choice in how I respond to that decision. I don’t like to admit that my heartbreak/disappointment was due to consequences of my decisions/actions, but my decisions/actions did contribute.
So the question now becomes, what does the Bible say and what is the correct response? Theoretically and theologically the answer is easy, but reality is never in line with theory or theology. As I said, our actions determine the consequences so when we react negatively there are negative consequences, so how do we recover from those consequences? That’s the big question? You see, that’s what I love about the Bible. It’s a book filled with men and women who have failed, made bad decisions, and are basically sinners. The Old Testament is filled with stories of men and women recovering from bad decisions, and the Psalms are a blueprint on how to seek God after making a bad decision or seeking God in disappointment. When you get to the New Testament, you need only look at the apostles to see men who are imperfect and recovering from bad decisions. Especially Paul. Paul is a great example. A man who hunted and persecuted and pretty much participated in the killing of Christians, and yet he became the man who wrote most of the New Testament and is credited for bringing Christianity to the Gentiles (us/non Jews). The key Biblical passage for me (what, did you think I was going to write a blog about dealing with our “stuff” biblically and not include stuff from the Bible…ffshhh) is Phil 3:7-14. Let’s break it down.
7 But whatever were gains to me I now consider loss for the sake of Christ.8 What is more, I consider everything a loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whose sake I have lost all things. I consider them garbage, that I may gain Christ 9 and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which is through faith in[a] Christ—the righteousness that comes from God on the basis of faith. 10 I want to know Christ—yes, to know the power of his resurrection and participation in his sufferings, becoming like him in his death, 11 and so, somehow, attaining to the resurrection from the dead.
These 5 verses have been important verses to me in my life. I come back to these verse whenever life happens and my “stuff” gets fed to me. I also come to these verses as a reminder that’s it’s not about me, it’s about what CHRIST is doing in me. When Paul states he considers everything a loss….garbage (other versions swap out garbage for dung which, as we all know is shit), he’s saying that all of his accomplishments and successes before he came to Christ mean nothing. Let’s be honest, he had a lot of accomplishments before his CHRIST experience. He was a pharisee, consider a real up and comer in the Jewish world and well-respected, but he considers them all shit compared to knowing CHRIST. Paul states in vs 10 that he wants to “KNOW CHRIST”, this is commonly translated as an intimacy. Not sexual intimacy, but a knowing of someone so emotionally and intellectually that you become like each other. That is our ideal goal as a CHRIST follower.
12 It is not that I have already obtained it or already reached the goal — no, I keep pursuing it in the hope of taking hold of that for which the Messiah Yeshua took hold of me. 13 Brothers, I, for my part, do not think of myself as having yet gotten hold of it; but one thing I do: forgetting what is behind me and straining forward toward what lies ahead, 14 I keep pursuing the goal in order to win the prize offered by God’s upward calling in the Messiah Yeshua.
Paul is stating that he, even as a mature Christian that has spent his life spreading the gospel and seeking and serving CHRIST, that he doesn’t believe he’s “arrived”. He’s constantly striving and moving forward in his walk with CHRIST. The one thing he’s doing is forgetting what is behind. Forgetting the things of the past is not easy, it may be impossible, but I believe what Paul is stressing is the second part: Straining forward toward what lies ahead. To pursue the goal of knowing Christ.
So, after reading through all this, you may be asking: “So what’s the point?” “What did all of that mean?” Well, simply, to me, it means don’t allow the past to drag you down. Paul’s accomplishments as well as his sins could have caused him to be either incredibly arrogant, or so hurt and devastated upon realization that he could have crawled into the fetal position and never recovered. Neither happened because CHRIST led him to the right people and places in his time of healing. That’s what CHRIST will do and is doing for all of us that are in the middle of something or coming through something that was incredibly painful. GOD will provide the people and experiences to put you back together, only better than you were. Paul is saying Press on, move forward and don’t let your past determine your future. Focus on what’s ahead and allow GOD to do an incredible work in your life.