A young man named Ryan Ferguson was freed several weeks ago after spending nearly a decade in prison for a crime he did not commit. When I first heard his story, I thought about the time he'd lost while in prison and how far behind he would be compared with his peers with regard to jobs and education. Despite his situation, Mr. Ferguson seems to be happy and optimistic about the future, rather than angry or frustrated.
As I thought about his story, I realized that it was similar to the Bible story of Joseph (see Genesis 37-41). A young Hebrew man gets beaten and sold into slavery by his brothers. His master, Potiphar, trusts him and puts him in charge of his household. After a time, Potiphar's wife tries to tempt Joseph into having an affair with her, and, after he refuses, she accuses him of attacking her. Although her false testimony gets him thrown in jail, Joseph ultimately helps Pharaoh interpret a dream. The ruler is so impressed that he makes Joseph second in command over Egypt. In this position of authority, he implements regulations that save Egypt and neighboring kingdoms during a famine.
What strikes me about his story is that Joseph's turbulent history never prevented his progress or hindered him from doing what God needed him to do. Despite having a "prison record" and lacking a standard education, he became a statesman and saved Egypt and his family (including his brothers who had sold him into slavery) from starvation. The Bible never says he got angry about being a slave or wrongfully imprisoned. It reports his humility and reliance on God, which enabled him to prosper and put him into positions of authority.
As Mary Baker Eddy, who discovered Christian Science, wrote, "The human history needs to be revised, and the material record expunged" ("Retrospection and Introspection," p. 22). Like Joseph, we do not have to be limited by whatever our human history says about us. It cannot limit our present or future ability to express God and follow His commands. The true identity of each of us is derived from the all-good God, our creator and Father-Mother. We are not made up of a compilation of past experiences.
As we trust that God protects us and puts us wherever we need to be in order to best express and serve Him, we can overcome a difficult past and avoid becoming irritated when we feel we've been wronged.
Similarly, we can know that no time is lost because God will "restore to you the years that the locust hath eaten" (Joel 2:25). Even though he spent years as a slave and prisoner, Joseph was ready and able to help when Pharaoh needed him and was not hindered by the time he spent incarcerated.
While few people face situations like those of Ryan Ferguson and Joseph, both men are good examples. They were cheerfully willing to forgive and ready to move forward with their experiences regardless of their situation.
Whether our past includes problematic relationships, poor employment history, or bad credit, we can trust in God's care for us and know that our human history cannot hinder our growth or our prospects.