6 Out of the Old
Paul Tillich: “The new is created not out of the old but out of the depths of the old. That which creates the new is that which is beyond old and beyond new, the holiness of the Eternal.”
The past can drag us down. It can cripple us and imprison us. It can be the excuse for why we don’t grow or move on to something different.
All of us have tried to pick and choose which parts of the past we will accept and integrate into our present. And the whole past keeps intruding into our reactions and our identity.
There is something about the past which screams for us to accept as a whole. It is not that we like what we did and what we had done to us. It is a kaleidoscope of events that switch values on us. At a certain age, we realize that we learned from one thing that we hated and saw the phoniness of something else that we used to value. The past shifts.
It shifts according to how we integrate it. And we can’t integrate it until we accept the reality of our past as essential us.
It works like this. The past pops up and we discover that it begs us to affirm it as what has shaped us, either as manure or past blooms. It takes a mighty affirmation, a big Yes to what we have been in order to use it as the foundation of who we are.
In short, we have to declare the past as Holy, as God Given (to use another metaphor) and to endorse it as approved. Approval does not mean that we like it or that it was not devastating to us in part. It means to look at the depths of the old.
All of us who have been abused or addicted or a victim to someone knows this process.
This has been a major learning in our Native youth group. They have much in their past, both as Natives and as individuals in a toxic environment, that they want to forget.
A youth recounts this story: “I visited my friend and saw a man who looked so much like my uncle who raised me in love and generosity. It was my dad. Perhaps if I had known he was there and not seen him as the face of my uncle I would have beat him up for all the things he did to me and my mother. But I saw a Native, I saw someone I loved, and I saw myself. It was all mixed up. Evil and good were fighting in my stomach. Instead of hitting him I found myself saying ‘It’s okay.’ Finally I put to rest all my hatred of who I am because of my past. It was one of those god-events.”
Stamp the past as holy. We can all redeem the past in light of who we are today. And we can do it over and over again.