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May 29th, 2006

Let go of the past

I try to make a habit of morning prayer, working my way through the Daily Office. It is a project I haven't touched in months, but I dip back in, like I did this morning. I suspect that I read the wrong reading this morning (year one instead of year two) but like most accidents with Scripture, it seems to be a happy one. The Gospel reading is Luke 9:51-62. In context, Jesus is on his way to Jerusalem for the last time. He passes through a Samaritan town that does not accept him, and the apostles--always looking for a fight--ask if they should "call upon heaven to rain down fire on them." Jesus says, no, don't be silly.
Then Luke lists a few anecdotes about people who want to follow Jesus. One says he will follow Jesus anywhere, and Jesus replies that he has "nowhere to lay his head." He calls another, but the man says "let my bury my father" and Jesus replies with the very strange "Let the dead bury their own" but tells him to proclaim the Kingdom of God. Another will follow, but he needs to say goodbye to his family and Jesus' response is "No one who puts a hand to the plow and looks back is fit for the Kingdom of God."
What to do with these words? Spring is a time of renewal, rebirth, starting over. Placing Easter near the vernal equinox is good symbolism. My wife and I are in our yearly battle with spring cleaning. The hardest part isn't throwing a bunch of stuff away, but breaking the cycles that leads to a house that can only be described as "clutterfucked." My friend Ben has questioned our slovenly ways by asking me why I don't respect myself or my wife enough to keep a clean house. A question that I think misses the mark, but puts a spin on the whole problem that challenges me in uncomfortable (but inspirational) ways.
I read Luke this morning and realized that part of our bad habits is inertia. We act the way we do because we have always acted like this. One messge burried in Jesus' text is let go of the past. The Son of Man has nowhere to lay his head. We are comfortable in what we know. We live in the past because we were happy then. How many of us love the music of our teen-age years long into adult-hood? They way we lived was at one point a happy place, and we stay there. Let go of the past. Move in a new direction. It's a way of practicing faith. Let the dead bury their own. It is impossible to go backwards in time and change things. I have tried to re-write my life in ways that would avoid the crap (a disasterous first marraige) but it is impossible to get to the good things I have now (a wonderful second marraige). Regret is a heavy burden that weighs us down. We need to turn regret into a force for change. Pulling back on the slingshot to make the stone fly forward. No one who puts a hand to the plow and looks back is fit for the kingdom of God. Do what needs to be done right now, in the present. Sew the seeds of the future right now. Don't let past failures be anything more than lessons for the future.

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