I learned to drive on a stick-shift.


If you thought moving forward could give you whiplash, you’ve never had your head snapped while looking behind you. Talk about getting a crick-neck!

When I finally took Driver’s Ed in high school, we had automatic transmission mostly because they practically super-glued our hands at “2 and 10” on the steering wheel. When we backed up, we stared fixedly into the rearview mirror.

Who would ever think of driving forward while looking back?

I’ve attended a weekly support group for co-dependency for almost a year now. It’s astounding what you can discover about the one person you live with day and night—yourself. We’ve hit the stage when we’re doing a life inventory.

It’s kinda like cleaning out the frig and discovering last year’s leftovers has turned into a new life form. That’s what unresolved things from our past tend to do, take on a life of their own. We ignore them as long as we can, but when their contents start spreading onto the kitchen floor, we know it’s time to deal.

Sins from our past—whether done by us or against us—can literally feel like a ball and chain. Unfortunately, many of us have the bizarre but common habit of coming to God with this ball and chain of pain, begging God to cut it off us, he does, and then we pick it right back up and carry it away instead of leaving it. Ring any bells?

In a prior blog post, I shared the impetus for my becoming a Christian in my youth was something I never thought myself capable—I had sex with my best friend’s boyfriend. I sobbed the whole time, but you can’t erase that. God in his mercy sent someone to find me in my sin and, two weeks later, I was baptized. But just because you turn off the camera doesn’t mean the video gets erased.

I’ve got a lot of crude in my past but this was the thing I was most ashamed of—my ball and chain. My tears, my shame, my “I didn’t mean to”s were meaningless. I had become the kind of person I hated most—I was betrayal personified.

The day I was baptized, God forgave and purified me taking my sins as far as the east is from the west (Psalm 103:12). But when I left church that morning, I carried my ball and chain out the door with me and all the way home.

When we get stuck in the guilt of the past, it’s like living with an extra 100 pounds strapped to our backs or driving forward while staring fixedly in the rearview mirror. It’s exhausting. It’s frustrating. It’s downright dangerous. Sooner or later, we’re going to crash and burn out. We aren’t focused on moving forward because we can’t.

But if we’ve resolved our past by confessing it to God and to others (James 4:16), and if we’ve made the effort to right any wrongs, who are we to hold on to our past sins when God has released us from them? Slavery is burdensome, but it can be just as addictive as freedom. Ask the Israelites (Exodus 16).

My life inventory was nine pages, single spaced in 10pt Arial Narrow. Forty-nine years’ worth of good and bad. I read it to a small group of very close friends who patiently listened to the whole thing, alternately laughing and crying with me. It was cleansing. It was purifying. In God’s eyes, though, I was just as clean and pure as the day I was baptized.

But now I got it–

I glanced in the rearview mirror, put my foot on the gas, and watched my ball and chain disappear behind me.


What things from your past are you still carrying around?


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