Gradient Week 6

Rafiki Living

Written by Melissa Smith

I'm pretty positive we have all seen the Disney classic, The Lion King, at least once. I think I've seen it about 50+ times, but I'm weird like that. I also have 3 children who all grew up loving the movie. One of my favorite characters is the wise mandrill monkey, Rafiki. He's the one who goes after Simba and helps him figure out that he has to get back home and take his rightful place as king. In a pivotal moment, Rafiki tells Simba that he needs to leave his past behind him. Who knew cartoon monkeys had depth?

The idea of leaving our past behind us, of letting go of the things we can no longer change, wasn't a profound life lesson discovered by Disney writers. It's something we have always been encouraged to do. It's also something that isn't always easy when our yesterdays are an active part of our today's.

When I take a look at the idea of past and how it is characterized, I see a place that cannot be changed where the facts become less accurate as time goes by. Its effects often linger long after the time has passed and has a knack for popping up when least expected. This is a place filled with memories of the parts of life we would rather forget because they have impacted us in negative ways and created painful events. We all react differently to it. Some bury the past and act as if it never happened, while others relive it continuously. I think most of us fluctuate between both. I know I do.

Why would I do that? Simply put, the past hurts! It's riddled with events I wish hadn't happened, words I shouldn't have said, and choices that can't be undone. These are the things I have kept deeply buried, never to be spoken of again. It's a barren wasteland of shame and regret and failure. It's filled with memories of my shortcomings and how they have hurt people I care about. Nothing good is there. Can't you see the tumbleweeds rolling through? I do. It's a bleak place and I would rather not go there.

Well, I have good news for all of us: we aren't meant to be there! When we started following Jesus, we were transformed into new creations and adopted into God's family. (2 Corinthians 5:17; Ephesians 1:5) As His kids, we have been completely forgiven and everything from our past has been removed from who we are, never to be remembered again or held against us. (Psalm 103:12; Isaiah 43:25; Hebrews 8:12) He has restored our souls, the very part of us that makes us who we are and includes our hearts and thoughts! (Psalm 23:3) As a daughter of the King, we have been given a brand new life far removed from the one we had. (Romans 6:4; Romans 8:1-2) It's truly a miraculous reality we are now a part of.

I am a daughter of the Most High God. He loves me explicitly and loves everything about me. When He looks at me, He only sees the child He loves and all of the plans He has for my future. He doesn't see my past... but, I do. Other people do. For many of us, once this thought enters it creates a dichotomy in our reality and we're back to the barren wasteland.

It's a cycle we all go through. We tell ourselves that thing is too terrible to recover from. We tell ourselves that God may have forgiven us, but we still have to live with the consequences and suffer them.

Can I tell you something? It's all a lie. Your past really is gone. God has wiped your slate clean and given you a new life through His Son and the sacrifice Jesus made. It is finished. Because of this amazing truth, we are able to heal and recover from all things because of Jesus in us.

I know my past and I definitely have areas I regret and am ashamed of. I have made choices I wouldn't want someone else to make and decisions I can't undo. I can travel backward and visit any of them and it's like I'm in that moment all over again. Sometimes, I don't even try to go there and the memory will hit me. Then I realized, my journeys to the memories weren't sparked by myself. Bringing up the past and using it against us is one of the enemy's favorite weapons, but he can only manipulate the past. He'll tell us that whatever we did is still very much a part of a relationship's dynamic and we should feel ashamed or filled with regret about a life choice we've made. He changes our perspective with whispers that tell us we deserve to be treated badly because of our past decisions. He does all he can to keep us tethered to a past that we are no longer bound by in the name of consequences. He has no idea what our futures hold, but he knows that they are filled with hope and fulfilled promises.

Our choices definitely affect the people in our lives. They have a direct impact on us too. Here's the thing: we can't un-choose the choices we've made. We can only choose the choices for today. So, let's choose to believe what God has said about us and forgive ourselves because He has forgiven us. Let's choose to extend love, grace and mercy to ourselves and then to every person in our lives. Receive His permanent removal of your past and ask Him to help you let it go. Spend your time allowing His love to flow through you to others and to yourself. Ask the Holy Spirit to remind you of good things from your past. Ask God to bring restoration to your relationships and He will. It may not be as soon as you would like or in the way you would expect, but He will heal all of your wounds.

I have never thought a cartoon monkey would inspire a life lesson, but Rafiki has a point. Leave your past where it belongs: behind you. Focus on living life as a daughter or God and let Him shower you with His love, grace and mercy.

As you do, His peace will fill your heart and you will begin to look to the future with hope.