That’s the slogan of Colonial Williamsburg Foundation – an organization that runs a living museum, which mostly means people get to dress up in britches and waistcoats and wigs and corsets and tell stories about the Brits.
“There is no future until we settle our past” – another great quote, this time from the Chronicles of Riddick, almost as cool as Colonial Williamsburg. (Please note that sardonic wit often is mistaken in print.)
What we do with our past makes us or breaks us. I really believe that in the vast field of research and study of human development and subsequent behavior, we can boil it all down to that. Our past. It affects everything whether we want it to or not, whether we realize it or not. And until we get a healthy grip on it, we will flounder and fail or we’ll succeed and continue to hide our past until it explodes on us, or someone else explodes it for us. A la Ashley Madison or some crazy radical group looking to tear down important people.
I finally succeeded in figuring out how to delete photos in Picasa. I have been trying to do this off and on because every time I would go to back up the photos on my phone, I would inevitably see pics on my husband’s computer of an ex-girlfriend. I’m not an insanely jealous person and I hardly feel threatened by her currently or her existence in the past. In fact, I am encouraged in a weird way that he dated someone before me and that he made a decision, regardless of me – we hadn’t even met yet – that she wasn’t the person for him which freed him to meet me in all of my awesomeness. So now we get to be awesome together.
But I’ll be honest. I kinda hated it. I hated seeing the photos of them smiling together and hugging. It was off putting. Every. Single. Time. And they HAD to go. If you think I mean “she” had to go, well, that too. It was a “they.” Rob was a person with her. And now he’s a person with ME. And there’s a world of difference.
When it comes to the past, we want to just throw out the baby with the bathwater, a horrible expression I know. But when we try to delete the past, it has horrible consequences. I’m reminded of the film Eternal Sunshine of a Spotless Mind. It was sad and yet quirkily hopeful. We HAVE to carry our past, our memories, our experiences. We cannot magically erase it without erasing who we ARE and what has created the unique identity of each of us. We have a hope beyond just clinging to the past or looking to the past for our identity. Looking to our past oftens leads us in circles, chasing our tails, hoping that we’ll some day break the cycles in our lives and be free of what holds us back.
Thinking about my own story, I have struggled off and on with identity. I looked to my past to understand who I am and often that starts at the very beginning (a very good place to start). For someone who is adopted, though, this is troublesome. I don’t know the circumstances of my birth or my birth family. I don’t even really know if September 30 is my real birth date and it’s not very likely I will ever know these things. It was enough to drive me to despair at times, to question my existence, and to wonder what it all means. At times in my life, I hated it. I wanted to wipe it all away and start with a clean slate and be a “real” person with an actual birthday.
But what I came to understand is that when I looked at my past, I didn’t look far enough back. I looked at my birth, but I didn’t look at my creation. I didn’t look to when time wasn’t time, when long before the creation of the WORLD, God saw me and knew me and chose me and called me. I believe this. I believe this with my whole heart and soul. I believe that “all my fruitless searches” come to a conclusion in the worth and value Jesus gave to me through his life, death, and resurrection.
I know it sounds far-fetched and a bit ridiculous to many. Christianity has been pitched too often in the weirdest and strangest of ways. But the ones who believe in the truth don’t make the truth any less true. A lunatic can believe that the earth revolves around the sun. All I know is the Gospel changes my heart and the way I live and what I’m all about. I know the struggle of dealing with the past. I know the heartache that is much like looking at old photos you keep stumbling on in your mind, over and over, unable to shake and delete the images of your past failures, your sinful choices, or the sin done to you. You keep trying to delete these things and find temporary fixes to get them out of your sight, but only to find them creep back in later. It’s debilitating and too easy to alternate between despair and denial.
But I also know a confidence I have never had in all my life because of the Grace that I have come to know and understand, and pray to know more and more every day God gives me in this life, today, and all my days. I have come to know the Redeemer, the One who has chosen me and loves me and “woos” me daily, coming after me when I stray and offering pardon and peace every time, as well as the promise of the ultimate, epic delete button in the end. I can only pray that He will continue to strengthen me and cause me to seek my all in Him, to learn to love more, to learn to be more grace-full and grace-giving, to be beautiful in His eyes first and then my husband’s and my children’s. I want more than anything to find my all in Him and to see my past in His glorious, all encompassing plan of creation and all of History. May He see fit to use my story and all its twists and turns to His glory. I have seen the glimmer of that, with every passing year. I have seen Him take all that makes up “Robin Jester Wootton” and turn it into glimpses of Gospel redemption, giving me a glorious marriage and beautiful children, taking ashes and turning them into beautiful works of art. I am so blessed and turn every blessing back into praise and thankfulness.
Happy birthday to me 🙂