It is difficult for me to articulate how blessed and thankful I am for my past. My parents love me, love each other, and love life. They provided me with stability, security, acceptance, and love. They continue to provide the same even today.
My grandparents could be described in the same way. All four of them were faithful to each other, faithful to God, and involved in my life growing up. Two of them are still alive today—and continue to be a part of my life.
The education I received was valuable. A private Christian school in South Dakota for elementary, a public school in North Dakota for high school, a four-year university in Nebraska for my Bachelor’s degree, and a four-year private university in Minnesota for my Master’s degree.
I am thankful for a mind that allowed school to come easy and a body that allowed me to participate in sports.
In high school, I met Kimberly. Shortly after graduating college, we married—20 years ago. And I couldn’t be happier. She is loving and patient and selfless and kind and beautiful. She has supported me every step of the way and I hope I’ve done justice in supporting her.
I have never worked a job I did not find fulfilling. I am thankful for the men and women who offered opportunities and mentorship along the way.
My two kids are 16 and 13. Both are healthy, do well in school, participate in extracurricular activities, are active at church, and have close friends they can rely on.
Not every day of my life has been perfect, certainly not. To live is to suffer strife and trials of every kind. But in almost every imaginable way, my life until now has been richly blessed.
I am thankful for my past, but I am not moving in that direction. My past has been lived and can never be re-lived.
Forward is the only direction we can live our lives.
This is true whether our past is something we want to remember or something we want to forget.
If our past was difficult, we learn from it. We redeem our past mistakes by learning from them. And we overcome wrongs committed against us by serving others and vowing to chart a different path forward for ourselves.
If our past was positive, we honor it most by living our best life in the current season and the next.
This is something we need to be reminded of often. It is easy, over the course of life, to collect more and more possessions from previous seasons of life: objects that were passed on to us by our parents, things that were used by our children when they were young, or items that signify accomplishments in life and career. Items that, by nature, represent the past—whether it be a season of life, a relationship, an accomplishment, or an experience we want to remember.
But the possessions we keep should represent the person we are trying to become, not the person we were.
Sometimes we think we’re honoring our departed loved ones by keeping their stuff, but let’s ask ourselves if they would want us to be burdened by their belongings. Doubtful. The best way to honor those who loved us is to live our best life possible, not to be weighed down by their things.
In the same way, we do not do ourselves favors when we cling to past seasons of life after we have entered into new ones.
You may have loved mothering young kids, for example, and look back on those days with great fondness. But if your kids have grown and have families of their own, you are in a new stage of life and should embrace it fully. Holding on to a lot of mementos of motherhood and longing for those days may be hindering you from fully entering into the potential of your new time of life.
Minimizing possessions from our past is not a sign of disrespect. Quite the opposite. It is the most honoring thing we can do. Because no matter how sweet the memories, our lives are not moving in that direction.
Just because something brought you joy in the past doesn’t mean you should carry it forever. (tweet that)