Punishing Ourselves for the Past

The other day, I ran into a woman that I hadn’t seen in over 15 years. I didn’t see her at first, but she recognized me and immediately made her way to where I was standing. It was so good to see her. We hugged each other and the first words out of her mouth were “How do you stay looking so young?” As many of you can attest, running after little ones will keep you on your toes, but nothing keeps you feeling and looking youthful like the grace of God on your life. When you have a heart for God, and you choose to dedicate your life to pleasing Him, He will keep you if you want to be kept. Living according to His Will has restorative power and helps us age gracefully. I’m not saying that we don’t grow older in our appearance, but His ageless grace is apparent on our faces when pleasing Him is our priority.

All of us have made mistakes and haven’t always done the things we know are right. Some individuals are carrying around the guilt of those things, and this keeps them from walking more fully in God’s extraordinary grace. Sometimes this guilt comes from things we’ve done, and sometimes it comes from things that have been done against us. In some ways, we may be punishing ourselves by continually feeling sad and hurt because our hearts were broken by someone we truly loved. There are other ways that guilt punishes us as well. Sometimes its through the fear that is still operating in our souls because someone violated us when we were powerless to defend ourselves. These are wounds that the enemy would like to keep open, so that he can continue to trap us in fear, sadness, shame, and self-condemnation.

Many of us allow mistakes and pain from the past to affect us in the present. We do this by spending a lot of time thinking about the situations and focusing on the harm they caused. This shows us that we’re still hanging on to these emotions and thoughts. God wants us to wear the sweet perfume of His grace and this requires us to stop punishing ourselves by rehashing and reliving the past. We’re giving negativity space and weight in our lives, and Heavenly Father wants to help us release it.

In Luke 7:36-39 (NLT), Jesus Christ demonstrates the liberty and grace he extends through the record of a woman who had made some serious mistakes. In this passage, one of the Pharisees, a group known to deplore him, invited Jesus to have dinner with him. Jesus accepted the invitation and as they were eating, a certain immoral woman from the city heard he would be eating there and brought a beautiful alabaster jar filled with expensive perfume. This woman had a bad reputation in town because of her deeds of the past. Understanding the times in which this takes place is crucial, because it wasn’t easy even for a woman with a good reputation, so you can imagine what it was like for a woman with a soiled one.

Some believe she was a prostitute, a label given to many women that were forced to make a living on their own because they didn’t have a husband. She might have come from a poor family with no pedigree and fallen in love with someone who promised to be her rescuer, but only used her for his pleasure. Heartbroken, but naïve’, perhaps she fell into this trap repeatedly. Men in the town began to talk, and because no man would marry her, she was labeled immoral. She was ostracized from good society, and no doubt felt life was a vicious cycle of which she had no power and no redemption.

She had heard reports of Jesus’ ministry and teaching, and an urgency to see him ignited her heart. When learning he would have dinner at Simon, the Pharisee’s house, she made it her business to see Jesus, and she did not come empty handed, but came ready to submit herself in the most humble way she knew. She brought an alabaster box filled with perfume, intent to perform a service that was typically relegated to the lowest servant in the house. Luke 7:38(NLT) tells us, “Then she knelt behind him at his feet, weeping. Her tears fell on his feet, and she wiped them off with her hair. Then she kept kissing his feet and putting perfume on them.”

Again, we need to know a little bit more about the times to see the heart of what this woman did. Hospitality was greatly treasured back then. It was extremely important to the culture. It was customary to do things like have a servant standing by to attend the guest by presenting a basin of water and towel so they could wipe their feet. They wore sandals and their feet were always dusty, so this washing of the feet was a common courtesy. It was also customary to greet valued guests with a kiss on each cheek and to anoint their head with oil. Simon had been a poor host to say the least. He had performed none of these hospitable protocols for Jesus, the Son of the Living God.

When at a dinner table back then, it was common for the feet to be postured off to the side, behind the body in a sitting position on the floor. It is possible that this is how Jesus was sitting when the woman came behind him to wash his feet. Simon was incredulous that Jesus had allowed this woman to touch him. She dared not kiss his head, knowing how she was viewed, but kissed his feet and anointed them with perfume. Jesus rebuked Simon for his neglect of common courtesies and in Luke 7:47-48 (NLT) said, “I tell you, her sins—and they are many—have been forgiven, so she has shown me much love. But a person who is forgiven little shows only little love. Then Jesus said to the woman, “Your sins are forgiven.””

In Luke 7:50, Jesus told the woman that her faith had saved her, and to go in peace. This is the grace that he offers to all of us. We must stop punishing ourselves by rehashing old memories of hurtful situations in the past. By doing this, we are trying to keep dead things alive. Jesus took it all to the cross and we need to leave it there so we can walk in the liberty he freely offers.

Take a piece of paper and write down all the negative things that have happened to you in the past that are still affecting you today. Be as honest and thorough as you can. Spill your heart openly to God on paper. Remember that the more you deliver over to Jesus—the more you ask and accept his forgiveness and restoration, the more love you’ll show him. Then, when you’ve written it all down, pray over it. Tell the Lord that you’re giving everything on that paper to Him, and that through his blood—the blood of Jesus Christ, you are released from them now! Tear the paper into the smallest bits possible and dispose of them in whatever way that causes you to have a new memory—one of being released from everything that has held you back or robbed you of joy. Go in peace. ■

Scripture quotations marked (NLT) are taken from the Holy Bible, New Living Translation, copyright © 1996. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers, Inc., Wheaton, Illinois 60189. All rights reserved.

“Punishing Ourselves for the Past”, written for findchristianman.wordpress.com. Copyright©2020. All rights reserved. All done to the glory of God through Jesus Christ, our Lord!

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