One particular day we came across a wedding party while walking on the beach in Australia. The bridesmaids had their dress hems lifted high and were making an elaborate design in the sand with their bare feet by walking around in a huge spiral. The following day I walked past the same area and looked for evidence of their sand art, but it had been erased by the high tide. No traces of it remained-only memories.
At that point, I wished every individual and couple who’d ever confided in me that they’re still struggling with their pasts could be there with me-women like Felicity, who’ve had four abortions . . . or Margaret, who wasted eight precious years in an affair with a married man . . . or men like Carson, who lost his job due to looking at porn at work . . . or Evan, who occasionally solicited a prostitute on his lunch hour. Oh, if I had a dime for every person in the world with a past sexual regret, I’d be a very wealthy woman!
Why did I want to gather all of these previous coaching clients on that beach? For an object lesson. I want to say to them: “Whatever we’ve done in the past, whatever our spouse has done in the past, it’s been washed away! The tides of time and God’s forgiveness have erased the past, so why do we pretend it’s still following us around like our own shadow?”
If you’re still obsessing over your past, know that it’s gone! Don’t let memories of the past haunt you. Don’t let yesterday’s pain rob you of today’s pleasure! And please understand that not letting the past haunt you does not equate to forgetting the past entirely-the notion that we can “forgive and forget” may be good advice, but it’s hard to do when we’re the ones who live with the memories of our own mistakes.
As a recovering relationship addict, I never want to forget where I’ve been or what I’ve experienced! Why? Because it’s the best insurance policy against me ever returning to that lifestyle! I want to vividly remember the pain, the shame, the confusion, the desperation. If I didn’t, it would be too easy to blindly fall back into that pit of sexual and emotional compromise again and again. Someone who’s never been burned is far more likely to foolishly play with fire than someone who’s been there, done that, and never wants to be burned again.
In addition, I like being able to identify with another person’s struggles, and empathize with them in a way that few counselors or friends may be able to do. My graduate degree from the School of Hard Knocks makes me a credible confidant and wise teacher. I dearly love the work that I do and the difference that I feel it makes in people’s lives, marriages, and families. I wouldn’t trade my life for anyone else’s on the planet, as I’ve learned that a person’s sordid past is often the most direct pathway toward God.
PRAYER: Lord, remind us daily that our past is removed as far as the east is from the west.
Excerpted from The Passion Principles: Celebrating Sexual Freedom in Marriage by Shannon Ethridge. Copyright 2014. All Rights Reserved. Published by W Publishing Group, and imprint of Thomas Nelson, Nashville, TN. Used by Permission. Not to be copied without Publisher’s prior written approval.