Monday, February 1, 2010

Breathe in, Breathe out, Move on

In January of 2009, I wrote about how harmful the things we say in anger are. In that column, I equated those kind of words to actually throwing things at the person with whom we are angry. It seemed that during that week, there were a number of stories, in the news, about people throwing food in anger. Here is a portion of that column.

A Florida man’s mother called him down for dinner, but when he did not respond, she unplugged his Xbox. He then went to the table, called her an obscene name and threw a taco at her. He is now in jail for assault. Another Florida person was arrested when she assaulted a man with a bagel. She is also in jail. I also read about a New York man who must have thought that throwing food was wasteful, so he picked up the family cat and threw it at his wife during a dispute. (Neither the cat nor the wife was harmed.)

There must be something about the winter months that cause people to do some unusual things. This week there is a very similar story in the news from Fairbanks, Alaska. Thirty one year-old, Warren Strickland, went through the drive-thru at a Taco Bell. He believed the restaurant got his order incorrect and drove back to the drive-thru window. Management accused him of lying in order to get free food. At that point, Mr. Strickland threw a double-decker taco in the manager’s face.

Mr. Strickland was arrested for the incident, and was sentenced to one day in jail, $100 fine, and one year probation for disorderly conduct. That’s a pretty big penalty for throwing food at a restaurant manager! Oh…the best part is that he is banned from Taco Bell during his year- long probation. (On a personal note, that would not be punishment for me.)

Have you ever done something that seemed so minor at the time, that turned into big trouble? Do you ever look back at one simple decision that you made, and realize that many things would have been different if you had just omitted one word or one action? We say things like, “If I had only turned right instead of left.” or “I wish I had looked over my shoulder before I said what I did.”

The fact is, there are probably many things that we would do differently if we could. In one episode of Everybody Loves Raymond, Raymond sees a woman who he went out with once in high school. He remembers that it was snowing and he didn’t walk her to her door after the date. They never went out again, and he regretted that decision for over 25 years. He finally gets to apologize to her and while he remembers the date, she has no recollection of the incident that had plagued Raymond’s conscience for all those years.

We were never meant to carry around guilt and shame. Many times we continue to feel bad for something we’ve done, long after we have been forgiven by others and by God. That kind of guilt can make you miserable and can even have physical ailments associated with it, such as sleep and eating disorders, depression, and decreased mental capabilities.

As Christians, we have many reasons to regret past actions. I remember one of the hardest parts of coming back into the ministry, was the feeling of regret for the 13 years of not following Christ as I should have. The thing that troubled me the most was the guilt I felt for all of the people I influenced in the ways of the world. The realization that I could never get those years back or have another chance to interact with most of those who I led away from God, instead of to Him.

Through much prayer, God showed me that His will would be done with those people, with or without me. I suppose, many times, guilt is simply pride in disguise. We need to learn to let go of the past. Paul writes in Philippians 3:13-14 “One thing I do, forgetting those things which are behind and reaching forward to those things which are ahead, I press toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.”

Give God your past. Ask Him to forgive you. Then, breathe in, breathe out, and move on to a closer relationship with Jesus Christ.

Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has gone, the new has come! (2 Corinthians 5:17)

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