ONE difficult problem besetting people these days is obsession with the past. Sad, painful memories torment them, rob them of the joys of the present (and of the past), and cause dread of the future.
It is possible to break the hold of discord from the past. We need to grapple with it. We cannot let it take over. And by turning to God, we can find the past redeemed.
Good, solid Bible study helps one to pray about painful memories. Referring to the goodness that is of God, and has always been present, the Bible says, "That which hath been is now; and that which is to be hath already been; and God requireth that which is past" (Ecclesiastes 3:15). That has always comforted me, because it makes clear that as I release all the muddle and melancholy of the past to an understanding of God, I will know what to do with bad memories-let them go! Because God is good, nothing unlike good has ever belonged to Him or to His perfect creation.
St. Paul wrote: "This one thing I do, forgetting those things which are behind, and reaching forth unto those things which are before, I press toward the mark for the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus" (Philippians 3:13, 14).
Recently I woke up from a dream that involved events of my childhood, when I had lost a beloved pet through a set of circumstances I hadn't thought about for years. I woke awash with sadness. "Why remember this now?" I asked myself. Then I began dwelling on all the losses of my life, of a long period spent on crutches with injured feet, of jobless times and homeless times when I lived out of a suitcase-the whole bit. I knew I had to do something fast. And I began to pray, declaring that God was holding me in His love and that He had always been the only power. This dead weight of memory had no power to drag me down, for it was made up of the belief that a material existence was all I had. This was erroneous. Why? Because God had created none of it!
Mary Baker Eddy, who founded the Christian Science Church in 1879, wrote in Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures: "The history of error is a dream-narrative. The dream has no reality, no intelligence, no mind; therefore the dreamer and dream are one, for neither is true nor real" (p. 530). And further on: "The true theory of the universe, including man, is not in material history but in spiritual development. Inspired thought relinquishes a material, sensual, and mortal theory of the universe, and adopts the spiritual and immortal" (p. 547). Relinquishes! Knowing this helps anyone to establish the legitimate goal of forgetting (and forgiving) the past.
We can have "total recall," but it should be a recalling only of what is good and true. If the thoughts coming to us are sad, disturbed, afraid, or resentful, we know they're not from God. And isn't dwelling stubbornly on the past really setting up a roadblock to progress? In my own situation, I was giving my misery the only power it had, by believing it came from evil happenings of the past.
With renewed determination to participate in the vitality of God's good purpose for me-not in material history-I have begun earnestly praying for the inspiration God always reveals to His children when they listen to Him and obey His will. Each day I pray, asking God to show me how I can best contribute to His continuity of good. I ask Him to reveal how to replace old ways of thinking with progressive, new ways.
And there has been progress. For example, in my part-time job, I work at being consistently helpful and cheerful, and at improving the quality of my thinking. I have been happier and freer from old, unpleasant memories. I start each day with no carryover of previous frustration or resentment. And I'm studying the Bible and Science and Health more earnestly than ever, to learn how I can be renewed again in Spirit, as Jesus taught.
Painful, disturbed thoughts, including those of physical pain and sickness, can be banished from consciousness. We can be buoyant and free. We can be conscious right now that God was, is, and always will be Love.