Cast Yesterday into the Deep
Tremendously sentimental, I have volumes of scrapbooks documenting my life.
I confess, I am guilty of planning vacations with scrapbook pages in mind; I will stage and capture the perfect photos to tell my stories. I often pull out a scrapbook and revisit my past, traveling down memory lane.
When I traveled back to Hawaii for my class reunion, I was beyond excited to reconnect with friends, take plenty of photos and make memories. The reunion weekend lived up to my expectations. I laughed lots, danced to classic tunes, and talked for hours with my former classmates. When the reunion activities were over, my good friend and I visited our old neighborhood on the military base. We reminisced as we drove by our teenaged hangouts. Our last stop was the beach where we had spent countless hours. I inhaled the salty air. The rhythmic sound of the waves crashing on the reef was familiar and pleasant. From the top of the stairs, I scanned the beach; emotions stirred my heart and dozens of memories crowded my mind.
Fond, happy memories. Lying on the hot sand watching the surfers. My one and only surf lesson. Listening to the Top 40 tunes on my little transistor radio. The tingly feeling as the sun dried the salt water on my skin. Pleasing scents of Hawaiian Tropic and Aloe Vera. Laughter. Sharing dreams and secrets with my best friends.
A vivid, detailed memory surfaced. Willful disobedience. Over-confident in my swimming abilities. A ferocious undertow. My feet getting swept out from under me. Frantically trying to regain my footing. Swept under and backwards by the current. Hurled forward into the ragged reef. Again. And again. Countless times. Exhaustion. Surrender. Tumbling in the surf. Held down by the weight of the water. Brilliant sunlight. Amazing peace. Sorrowful repentance. Intense pain as my hair is snatched. Precious air. Strong arms guide me to the beach. Collapsing on the beach in tears. Gratitude.
I shifted my gaze to other direction to the Cove, a small crescent-shaped beach nestled at the foot of a rocky hill, protected by a reef. The waves first plummeted the reef sending sprays of seawater skyway, then breached the reef and slowly rolled to shore. The Cove had been my safe place. I thought of the many times I had escaped to the Cove, seeking solace for my troubled teenaged heart. Sometimes I would sit on large lava rocks, stare out at the sea trying to process my thoughts. Most often, I would walk along the water’s edge, allowing my tears to fall freely and mingle with the salt water.
I watched the waves ebb and flow. After all these years, my tears would be somewhere in the depths of the ocean, far away. Suddenly, unexpected painful feelings of my youth overwhelmed me. Fear. Disappointment. Insecurity. Desperately longing for love and acceptance. Yesterday seemed so close.
In a heartbeat, I realized I had carried my adolescent fears, disappointments and longings, the results of difficult experiences and inaccurate perceptions, into adulthood. I allowed those negative, insecure feelings to dominate my thoughts and influence my decisions.
The Lord gently interrupted my thoughts; He whispered “cast yesterday into the deep.” I watched the waves for a moment, trying to make sense of His command. Somehow I knew that “casting my yesterdays into the deep” did not mean forgetting my past. It meant filtering those memories, both good and bad, through God’s truth. If the memory was healthy, constructive to my spiritual growth, edifying and pleasing to God, then it was safe to keep. I needed to cast away any memory that was a hindrance, destructive or in opposition to God’s Word.
I clinched my eyes shut and visualized myself gathering up my painful yesterdays, and with all my strength, hurling them into the Pacific. I looked to the far horizon to where my imaginary throw had landed my collective hurts: in the midst of the deep dark blue waters. Far away. Out of my reach. Rendered powerless.
All too soon, the sun slipped behind the mountains and it was time to leave. I reluctantly turned from the beautiful view, writing the moment to my memory. If I had been alone, I would have sat on the steps as darkness settled, savoring the Lord’s whisper and pondering my new awareness.
I left the beach with every intention of leaving my yesterdays in the deep. I anticipated my freedom from fears that consumed me, disappointments I always expected, and longings that would finally be fulfilled. However, when I returned home and engaged in my daily routine, I was caught off guard at how easily my learned fears and insecurities resurfaced. I had to choose: would I allow God’s truth or unreliable feelings control my thoughts and dictate my decisions?
Many years – many yesterdays - have passed since that evening on the beach. Some yesterdays are seasoned with great joy, amazing experiences and tremendous blessings; others with sadness, struggles and disappointment. I am grateful the Lord spoke to my heart and revealed to me the power and stronghold of my memories. In His word, God has given me the tools to manage my thoughts and feelings. Philippians 4:8 instructs for me to dwell on things that are true, honorable, just, pure, lovely, and commendable. I am reminded in 1 John 3:20 that even if my own conscience is condemning me, God is greater than my conscience and knows all things. My heart must not be troubled or fearful (John 14:27), for Christ has given me His peace. For God has not given me a spirit of fearfulness, but one of power, love and sound judgment (2 Timothy 1:7). I am able to do all things through Him who strengthens me (Philippians 4:13).
I would like to say that I have mastered, once and for all, the discipline of taking my thoughts captive and am no longer controlled by my emotions. The truth is there are times I allow those fears and insecurities to surface; sometimes, I even go fishing in the deep for my yesterdays. The battle for my mind is not a one-time occurrence, for the thief comes to steal, kill and destroy (John 10:10). Continually, I must be actively vigilant to safeguard my heart and mind; I must not give destructive thoughts and unreliable emotions any power or foothold.
The sentimental gene is part of my DNA. I still look for the perfect moments to capture in photos. I still document my longings in my journal. I still fondly reminisce of days gone by. But I do so with the awareness that yesterday has its purpose and place in time. I can’t change it, but it can change me. I must choose. And I choose God’s gift of abundant life, perfect peace and complete joy.
Brethren, I do not regard myself as having laid hold of it yet; but one thing I do; forgetting what lies behind and reaching forward to what lies ahead, press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus. ~ Philippians 3:13-14