Don’t Sacrifice Your Present on an Altar of Your Past
An altar is a place of sacrifice and worship. In the Old Testament, people would bring offerings to sacrifice upon the altar for various reasons. In modern times, many churches have an altar at the front of the church, not for sacrifices, but for prayer. I remember the church I grew up in had an altar at the front. I spent quite a bit of time praying around that altar. I have many fond memories of my childhood pastor, Wayne Combs, praying with me and for me at that altar.
Altars can be a great thing for a Christian, except when it’s a mental altar dedicated to something in your past.
I have built mental altars to the hurts, tragedies and losses that I have suffered. I keep them going by constantly revisiting these hurts, tragedies, and losses.
The sole purpose of an altar in the ancient world was to be a place of sacrifice. If the purpose of an altar is to sacrifice, what exactly am I sacrificing? Whenever I visit these mental altars I end up sacrificing a piece of myself. Unfortunately, the sacrifices never get me anywhere. They only keep me locked in my past.
Whenever we revisit a hurt, tragedy or loss in our minds, we go back to that place in time. The problem is that it is in the past. We cannot change the past. We know that and yet we continue to live there, possibly thinking that somehow things will change. The problem is that we end up wasting our lives wishing for something that isn’t going to happen. There have been too many times when we have sacrificed our present on the altar of the past.
I know because I have done this too many times to count. I tended to visit these altars often. Instead of making me feel better, it would result in bitterness and depression. It was not (and is not) healthy for my soul.
It’s the altar to “what should have been”.
It’s the altar to “what could have been”.
It’s the altar to “what never will be”.
It’s upon these altars that we sacrifice our present, and ultimately, our future.
Sadly, I have sacrificed many present moments on these altars because I was too busy living in the past, offering up blame, unforgiveness, anger, and bitterness as sacrifices to the god of self-pity. These are pointless sacrifices because they get you nowhere and end up costing you more in the long run.
I realized that I had dedicated too much of my life to these altars. I had been scared to demolish them, even though I know this is what needed to be done. I have often felt that if I destroyed these altars then I would be letting go of that which was precious to me. This wrong thinking kept me from moving forward.
None of us can afford to sacrifice our present. I know that I can’t change the past, all I can do is get stuck there. One thing that I have learned through loss and tragedy is that I have very little control over the future. So, all I really have is the right now . . . this present moment. I can control no one else, nor can I control circumstances. But I can control me and my attitude and nothing else!
Not only am I sacrificing my present, I am also sacrificing my future. As long as I am stuck in the past I cannot look towards the future. As I sacrifice the present to the past, I cannot use the present to plan for the future. As long as I stay mesmerized by the losses of my past I cannot see the blessings of my future.
My wife once said to me that as long as I was stuck dwelling on the losses of my past, I could not see what I had right in front of me. Those are wise words indeed.
The altars in the Old Testament were to be a sign for the Israelites to remember what God had done for them in the past so that they could have faith for what He was going to do for them in the present and the future. The hurts, losses and tragedies of our past can either become an altar that we sacrifice our present upon, or they can be memorials of how God brought us through hard times and that He will do it again as needed.
I made a decision a couple of months ago that I didn’t want to live in the past, thus sacrificing my present and ultimately messing up my future. My mind sometimes still wants to go back there to those places of hurt, tragedy, and loss. These altars need to be destroyed and smashed down, no longer able to take any sacrifices of my present. Then, the smashed stones can be built into memorials of how the Lord was faithful to take the hurts, tragedies, and losses of my life and make them into something useful and beautiful.
With God, nothing in our lives is wasted. Every altar of painful sacrifice can be turned into a memorial of the goodness and faithfulness of our great God! When we give our past over to the grace of God, a beautiful, living memorial begins to take shape.
What about you? Do you have any altars that need to be turned into a memorial?