Your Past Does Not Define Your Future
As we go forward from here I make you a promise that I will always be real, transparent and honest with my communications. Over the past 30 years of meeting with men of all walks of life one common thread I have found is that personal growth takes being honest with yourself and accepting that we all have issues. Unfortunately, too often our past issues tend to define who we've grow up to be. I am clearly no exception to the rule and 2018 was a year that I categorize as a year of personal breakthrough and self improvement. It wasn't what I would call a fun year, but rarely does growth come without pain. The impetus for this season of breakthrough was prompted by a close friend, Mike McGregor. Several years ago, Mike forwarded me a YouTube video called "Haka Dance" by Jeff Voth, the founder of CaveTime Ministries. When I watched this video something stirred inside me unlike anything I have experienced before.
I encourage you to watch the brief 4 minute video below (copy & paste to the search bar):
As a christian man, I so identified with Jeff when he states that as men we need to stand as a wall for our families and proclaimed "I got that, I got that, I GOT THAT, mine, mine mine, my Wife, my Daughters". As men we are called to stand guard for our families and never give way to the attacks of the enemy. Our wives long for our covering and our kids need it.
For decades as a christian man I have wrestled with my past and the tapes that played in my head that christian men are wimps, weak and feckless. You see I grew up in a small town in Northern Minnesota under a father who made an intentional practice to illustrate to me that christian men were weak and timid, It took hold of me. When I was approximately 10 years old I distinctly remember a Sunday afternoon my when dad drove me past a man in my town who was mowing his lawn wearing safety glasses and work gloves. For most people it could have appeared humorous, but to me, all I heard was "you see, that is what a christian man looks like". That messes with a young man's heart and mind and it did mine. Years later when I came to the Lord the dichotomy of being a christian man and still be masculine was a challenge to say the least. For close to 50 years that tape played in my head striking the hard contrast to the man I felt called to be. Finally came 2018, the year of breakthrough and self improvement. 2018 was also the year the Lord prompted me to share the Haka Dance video with Jeremy from my church . Jeremy was a man I barely knew at the time, but much to my surprise he too was searching for a hand up. Fast forward to today I now meet weekly with Jeremy, Scotty, Tim and Troy who are 4 men committed to being real at all costs in order to grow into the Men In Arms we are called to be.
What changed? Well I can tell you it wasn't the circumstances of life or my somehow mustering up enough energy to force needed change on my own. What changed was that I became so fed up with things I didn't like about myself and I found myself in a safe environment, surrounded by men that I knew had my back. That was a formula for breakthrough. After almost 50 years I realized I was quite good at putting the blame on my alcoholic dad who passed away when I was 16 years old. Over the next 42 years I honed my personal deflection skill well and almost wore it as a badge of honor because of what I made it through.
It was a couple of months ago, while having a real conversation with my wife Pam, the topic of my dad came up again. "Coincidentally" a few weeks prior to our talk Pam had returned from a trip to Wales where she encountered a women who had a similarly negative life experience with an alcoholic father. For her it was through Gods grace that she was able to break free from her past by asking God to reveal to her something positive about her past and allow her to get "unstuck" from the negative issues that held her captive. Honestly, when Pam shared this story with me, all I heard at first was "why don't you stop wallowing in the negative things about your dad and look for the positive things that you took away from him?" Clearly that wasn't how she said it but that is what I heard and it felt harsh at the time.
Shortly afterwords I shared this story with my Men In Arms and broached the issue about my dad. This time however, I approached the issue differently, Instead of focusing on the negative influence of my dad, the Lord showed me the positive attributes of my life that can be attributed to him. In fairness to him, he had taught me about having good work ethic, never quitting even when things were tough, and how to provide for my family, Below is a paragraph from a poetic letter I wrote and sent to my kids several years ago at Father's Day:
My dad was a man of few words, hard work and quite a stern look
Certainly not a studied man, I don’t recall ever seeing his face is a book
To him a job was not done unless it was done right
Every tool had its’ place and each blade of grass a certain height
Don’t get me wrong, I don’t blame him the way I once did
You see as an adult you have a different view than as a kid
I can honestly say that today the last line of that paragraph now has real meaning to me and I am no longer held hostage to my past as defined by my earthly father. The lessons I have learned over the long haul is that there is an enemy of this world who wants the negative issues of your past to define who you are. He wants to place those negative issues around our neck like a millstone and have them drag you to the bottom of the pool until you expire. I tell you it is a lie! True, our past does contribute to who we are but it does not have to dictate who we will become in the future.
13 Brothers and sisters, I do not consider myself yet to have taken hold of it. But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead,
14 I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus.
Take hold of the good, break free from the past and whenever possible help others to see the good in themselves because the enemy only wants them to see the negative.