Letting Go Of The Past

As a sports fan, March is just about my favorite month of the year. Baseball season is starting, hockey is beginning its playoffs, and it’s time for the college basketball tournaments—wall-to-wall hoops for days on end. Of course, being a UVA basketball fan is tough, because we’ve endured the two most notorious upsets in college basketball history. In 1982, the #1-ranked, Ralph Sampson-led Hoos fell to tiny Chaminade—a school that wasn’t even part of the NCAA. Then, of course, came the loss to UMBC last year, when UVA became the first #1 seed to lose to a #16 seed in tournament history.

I would imagine the hardest part of it for the players has to be that everywhere they play, they’re reminded of that loss. Despite winning 30 and losing only 3 last year; despite going 20-1 in arguably the best conference in the country; despite having a great record this year, that loss keeps being brought up. Nearly every game that’s been on TV has had a mention of it. And fans being fans, they’ve been pretty creative in reminding the team of their failure. At Maryland there were signs and chants; at Carolina some students wore UMBC jerseys to the game; and Duke students even tried to fly the Terriers’ point guard from last year to Durham to join the Cameron Crazies when UVA came to town. And of course, when this year’s tournament starts, that upset will be the ongoing story.
 
When asked about it, the coaches and players have all talked about how failure isn’t final, and how important it is to learn from it and move on—so that the next time you do better. The class and grace that Coach Tony Bennett showed in the moments afterward, when the pain from the loss was still raw, have resounded far more than a UVA win that day ever could have.
 
Most of us don’t have to answer questions on national TV from the press after our biggest failures, but we do get reminded of them. Sometimes it’s by the people closest to us constantly bringing it up; sometimes it comes from the consequences of those failures that we still have to deal with; sometimes it’s from the habits we developed to help us cope with them that we still struggle to overcome. Long after we’ve repented and been forgiven, and no matter how many victories we’ve won, Satan will still find ways to use our past to try to keep us down. 
 
But the great thing about being a Christian is that when God forgives a sin it’s gone—we may have to still deal with some lingering circumstances our sins have created, but the guilt is gone. Psalm 102:12 says that our sins are removed as far as the east is from the west. 2 Corinthians 5:17 says, “If anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has gone, the new has come.” Hebrews 10:17 says, “Their sins and lawless acts I will remember no more.” Acts 3 urges us, “Repent, then, and turn to God, so that your sins may be wiped out.”
 
When God forgives our sin it’s gone—completely. We may not forget it, but He does. And He wants us to learn from it, grow from it, and move on. God has used liars, adulterers, thieves, drunks, murderers, and more to accomplish His purpose. I mean, Jesus’ great, great, great, great, great grandmother, Rahab, was a … ummm… how can I put this gently? … a “woman of negotiable affection.” Everyone has a past; but when we repent and turn to God our record is wiped clean and God can do great things in our lives.
 
I’ve found that one of the most exciting parts of Celebrate Recovery is seeing people let God turn their lives around and use their mistakes to help others. We always say, “God never wastes a hurt.” He can use anything—even our past—to build His kingdom. He can take the very thing we’re most ashamed of and use it for His glory in ways we never imagined—if we let Him. 

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