Yesterday on my run, the song “Cedars of Lebanon” by U2 came up. The last stanza stunned me. It’s taken me a day to digest it, but I believe there’s deep truth for the victims of sexual abuse hidden there. The lyrics:
Choose your enemies carefully, ’cause they will define you Make them interesting ’cause in some ways they will mind you They’re not there in the beginning but when your story ends Gonna last with you longer than your friends
How much of my life has been defined by those two boys who stole me at five? Have I given them far too much power? There was a large chunk of my life where they ruled my mind. Nightmares, daymares, flashbacks all tortured me for a time. And then as I healed, as Jesus took my hand and led me down a healthier path, the boys faded from memory. I can’t remember their faces. I hope and pray they don’t last longer than my friends.
But they can, if I let them. If I stay back there in those bully memories for too long. I visit them only to proclaim healing, thankfully. But if I stay, they have a way of entangling my mind.
One of my favorite verses emphasizes the great looking forward we must do as those who have been hurt in the past. (And you don’t have to have the type of abuse I’ve experienced to have pain. We all have pain. All foster regret, anguish, awkward moments.)
Do not call to mind the former things,
Or ponder things of the past.
Behold, I will do something new,
Now it will spring forth;
Will you not be aware of it?
I will even make a roadway in the wilderness,
Rivers in the desert.
God is in the business of creating new things. 2 Corinthians 5:17 says, “Therefore if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creature; the old things passed away; behold, new things have come.” I fear that we miss those new things by staying too long with the bullies of our past. The question Isaiah poses, “Will you not be aware of it?” is an important one. It implies that we can be so preoccupied with the past that we’ll miss the roadways in the desert. By staying too long in the past, we’ll overlook a river through the desert of that memory.
Oswald Chambers says it beautifully. “Let the past sleep. But let it sleep on the bosom of Christ, and go out into the irresistible future with Him.”
We have an irresistible future! We don’t need to follow U2’s words. We don’t need to be defined by our enemies. They do not have power over us. They cannot haunt us if we’re pressing forward, looking to the future, awaiting the new things God brings.
Jesus asked the paralytic in John 5:6 the question He asks you today: When Jesus saw him lying there and learned that he had been in this condition for a long time, he asked him, “Do you want to get well?”
You have been in your condition many years now. Do you want to get well? Really? Would you rather rehash the past over and over in an endless loop of pain, or do you want healing? I have found that most people don’t pursue healing. The difference between the healed people and those still living in the past defined by their enemies is this: tenacious running after healing. You have to want to get well so bad it wakes you up at night.
The truth: THERE IS NO PASSIVE HEALING.
The truth: Your enemies no longer need to define you.
The truth: You can be set free. You can experience rivers in the desert.
The truth: With Jesus, there is an irresistible future.
The choice is before you today. What will you do?