It would probably be safe to assume that each person who reads this article has, at least, a casual familiarity with soap operas. My past personal acquaintance with the soaps could be described as a little more than familiar, and far less than an obsession. Translation: I knew all of the characters on General Hospital, but my world didn’t fall apart if I missed a week or two worth of episodes. Watching the soaps is probably not the most commendable of habits. However, over the years, I came to enjoy trying to determine the motivations of the different characters. I had even begun to admire the agility and the liberty with which the writers craft and manipulate storylines, creating some new relationship where there was none, while artfully dissolving another.
My purpose in writing is neither to praise nor discredit soaps. To watch or not to watch, is not the question that I wish to raise. Love them or hate them, there is an element of life that we all have in common with soap operas, and that is the backstory. A backstory, simply stated, is a past. We all have one.
Soap operas rely heavily on the backstory of a character to build the present drama and keep it going: The daughter that she left behind to pursue a music career; the guilt which leads to the secret drug addiction that threatens his career as a surgeon; the vendetta that haunts and torments the embittered and betrayed family until it is repaid. You know the drill.
While our personal backstory may or may not be as colorful as these, they tend to create similar types of caustic drama and toxic relationships. Just as the backstory drives the drama for soaps, our backstory, or past, drives the, often self-destructive, decisions we make in the present. If left unchecked, this preoccupation with the rearview of our lives causes us to become victims of our past, retarding any progress in the present, or forward movement toward a prosperous future. We become trapped in a very present past.
In Philippians 4:13-14, the apostle Paul offers a compelling approach to overcoming a painful backstory. He wrote:
Brethren, I count not myself to have apprehended: but this one thing I do, forgetting those things which are behind, and reaching forth to those things which are before, I press toward the mark for the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus. (KJV)
In this passage, Paul offers a formula for release from the bondage of the past: Forget, Press Forward, Aim High. These three themes would promptly destroy a daytime drama, but can write a narrative of freedom for you.
Webster’s Dictionary defines the word ‘forget ‘as ‘to fail to think of or recall’. The opposite of the word ‘forget’, is of course, to ‘remember’. “Re” typically means to ‘do over’, while a ‘member’ is a part or portion of something. Each time you choose to meditate on or remember a failure, a disappointment, or betrayal, you are inviting that past to be a part or member of your present life. You are literally ‘doing that part over’, (and in some cases, over and over and over again), in your mind, without resolution. Forgetting does not mean living in denial or brainwashing yourself. It is living out of the awareness that no matter who or what aims to remind you of it, only you have the power to give life to a dead past. In that same manner, you have the choice to forgive and forget. You have the authority to put that old story to its final rest, making it powerless to control your emotions, decisions, your relationships, or your future.
Have you considered this? You can actually move forward! Now, of course, when you decide to move forward, your backstory will try to ease to the forefront of your life in 3-D, with surround sound clarity. The past will do its best to remind you of the mistake you made the last time you tried, the sabotage you encountered, the way you were mistreated and misunderstood, or that terrible name your dad called you. You will be tempted to slow down to listen to the past, to re-call, to re-member. But this is where the press comes in; the strenuous movement toward the purpose for which you were designed.
Pressing forward may mean moving away from people or circumstances related to a negative backstory. I am not suggesting that you abandon every person you ever knew, or relationship you ever had, but take leadership. Do not allow relationships to just happen to you. Invite people into your life who are powerfully positive, who live with grace and purpose, and who are consistently moving forward in their own lives. Fill your world with overcomers. You will be able to readily identify these overcomers by their conversation. They are acquainted with the press required to break free from the past. But their backstory is only shared as a testimony of hope and possibilities. Overcomers will probably not listen to your backstory more than once, before challenging you to conquer your past, and set a new course for your life.
What is your high calling? Nothing can bring new blood to a life strained by the effects of a harrowing backstory, than a fresh perspective on purpose. People usually hold on so tightly to the past because they have not identified true purpose for their lives. You were designed by God for a holy purpose. You have been given gifts, talents, dreams and abilities that were meant to glorify Him, and bless other people. Spend time thinking about your innate gifts and talents. Are you a talented organizer? Do you have a knack for beautifying spaces? Do you have a gift for speaking? Encouraging? Listening? Do you have dreams of being an entrepreneur? Consistent focus and attention on the bright possibilities of the future will soon begin to overshadow a dark and gloomy backstory. Begin taking on new challenges, today. Aim High!
Let me encourage you, while I encourage myself: You are so much more today than you were yesterday. You will be so much more tomorrow than you are, today. Don’t be a victim to your backstory. The best is yet to come!