"Forgetting what is behind....?" Philippians 3 v13

Isn’t It All Behind Me?

Many Christians feel or may have been told that the pain of their past was dealt with at the cross and therefore they should not have to work through any issues. Whilst to an extent this is true - everything was won for us spiritually at the cross - just as living our Christian lives requires energy and effort so does recovery from our past. Time alone does not heal.

"Forgetting what is behind and straining to what is ahead." Philippians 3 v 13

This verse does not mean we obliterate our memory. Paul is in fact recalling traumatic events from his own past, and re-evaluating it in the light of his deepening relationship with God. Paul’s prescription for peace is making his feelings and anxieties known to God, rather than not thinking about them at all. (Philippians 4 v 6).

Has this been your experience? Have you felt pressurised just to forget the past and move on?

Laying The Axe At The Root

The reason we need to go back and look at the abuse is not so it in some way will haunt us, but in order to reclaim the part of ourselves that stopped growing when it happened. Matthew 3 v10 speaks of laying "the axe at the root". By knowing why we behave as we do - the root cause - we can free our hearts to grow and be liberated and not just our behaviour patterns. It is not what happened that counts - but the traumatic impact it had on that child. This is why we need counsel and insight to look at these matters because then we can root out the true reasons behind some of our situations and behaviours.

Past Memories Intrude Today and Confuse

The present can be constantly intruded with dreams, memories and fantasies of the past. They can surface in many different ways and behaviour patterns. This can lead to some very confusing feelings.

The reason why we seek to look at memories is so that they can no longer control us and dominate our lives today.

There are several different kinds of memories:

Recall Memory

This is normal remembering - when you recall the event and the emotions - it is a complete and collective memory.

Imagistic Memory:

These are snapshots memories that came up very suddenly and then are gone again.

These can be triggered by something in your environment e.g. a perfume, or a sound that your subconscious recognises and emerges into your conscience in a picture form.

Feeling Memory:

Also often triggered by something or someone. Bringing on a feeling of extreme rage or pain or fear without being able to anchor it an actual event. It is often registered in an extreme response to a situation or person.

Body Memory:

This is a physical feeling and response to what has happened after the event. Perhaps a feeling of nausea or repulsion or tightness in the body.

Acting Out Memory

This is a repetition of a pattern of behaviour or situation when you don’t have any insight or knowledge as to the root event. e.g. constant washing/brushing teeth

Have you experienced any of the above memories? Did it feel shocking or distressing to you?

Are you able to root it in anything?

One of the horrors of some memories is that sexual memories can feel pleasurable as well as painful. This is the source of unlimited amounts of guilt and shame for victims who can begin to believe because their body responded they are somehow responsible for the abuse and even colluded in it. A manipulative abuser who may notice body responses will even use this as a way out of taking responsibility and infer the victim "enjoyed it". You can see how easily this could happen to a young man who is abused. This is of course totally untrue but leads to often a chronic sense of shame and false responsibility - as the very thing that was so despised brought some degree of pleasure. This is especially true if there was very little love or support in your life and your abuser was the only contact you had: "To the hungry even what is bitter tastes sweet" Proverbs 27 v 7.

Have you ever guilty because of your confused sexual feelings/responses about the abuse?

Can you begin to see who is really the initiator of your situation?

Can you begin to lay the shame in the right place?

Can you separate yourself off from those confused sexual feelings?

There is another kind of behaviour pattern that has huge impact on our lives and that is in the way that our past dictates our life choices and relationship patterns.

The Homing Instinct

There is a curious dilemma that most people find themselves in the same situations again and again which they say they despise - but they keep repeating them. This is because it is what they know, so they feel comfortable in it. For example, you may have hated your parents angry behaviour but find yourself consistently in relationships with angry people. In their book "Love Is A Choice" Hemfelt Meirs and Minirth describe this constant repetition of the past as "The Homing Instinct". We leave home and our background and we may leave it behind physically; but within us there is a "homing instinct" in which we re-create our familiar surroundings even if they were not happy times. We can see that animals and birds migrate home to where they were reared, and similarly humans seek to return "home."

This is not a geographic location but a internal home within our minds. Something in us seeks to reconstruct our childhood in our present lives, and recreate situations. We re-create the familiar because of the compulsion to fix the family and change the outcome. It is what is termed as "unfinished business". The way out of this is to explore your past and see who your current relationship choices really represent.

Think of your relationships - personal/at work/friendships/flatmates

Can you see in any way that you have recreated your past?

Who do the people in your life now represent?

Do you relate to certain people in the way you did in your home or as a child?

Are you drawn to a certain type of person?

Can you see a pattern in your relationships developing?

Do you see where it originated?

Ways Out of the Pain of the Past

"My people are destroyed from lack of knowledge" Hosea 4 v 6

Without knowledge and insight we are doomed to repeat the past.

We often need outside help in order to do be free of our past and live fully in the present.

We can do this by:

• Seeking wise counsel and prayer - Get an experienced counsellor if you can.

• Get support - join a group - Groups help break the isolation of abuse

  1. Read books about abuse - Information gives you insight and knowledge

  1. "The Wounded Heart" by Dan Allender: NAV Press is excellent about sexual abuse

  1. "Love is A Choice" by Hemfelt/Meirs/Minirth: Monarch Press is very good on relationships

• Don't go it alone - Sorting out problems on our own usually leads to more pain.

• Know God is on your side - Above everything He wants to restore your life.

• Don't give up! Its can seem like a long journey but be patient the past doesn't have to ruin your


"I know some of you are asking "how long will it take?" I come to you to say...however difficult the moment, however frustrating the hour, it will not be long because truth pressed to the earth will rise again."

Martin Luther King