Have you ever had Peter-Pan envy? Sure, his endless childhood and life in Neverland sound pretty adventurous, but the part I’m thinking about happens near the start of J.M. Barrie’s classic story. It’s when Peter visits the Darling children and their dog, Nana, lunges at Peter as he escapes out into the night sky. “As he leapt at the window,” Barrie writes, “ Nana had closed it quickly, too late to catch him, but his shadow had not had time to get out; slam went the window and snapped it off.”
There went Peter, off to Neverland, utterly freed from his shadow (which, incidentally, Mrs. Darling rolled up and stored in a drawer).
Have you ever wished it were that easy to escape your shadow? To free yourself from memories of past events that seem to follow you wherever you go? To cast away hurtful words or ruined dreams that seem to haunt you? To roll up parts of the old you that don’t fit anymore and shut them away in a drawer, forgotten?
Unlike Barrie’s Peter Pan, we have no such mystical power to walk away from those shadows; we cannot–poof!—make choices and events from our past disappear. But we can find hope in Christ to loosen their grip. In this issue of Today’s Christian Woman, we’ll explore what it looks like to regard our past from a stance of hope, freedom, and redemption.
For Vaneetha Rendall, letting go of the past has meant a radical choice: forgiving her ex-husband. Rather than allowing the pain from her marriage’s demise turn her into a bitter or angry person, Vaneetha has chosen a better—and more Christlike—way; she shares her story of forgiveness in “‘I Can’t Forgive Him!’”
Like Vaneetha, Leslie Leyland Fields knows the power of forgiveness. Leslie speaks frankly about the pain of her own childhood, and from her experience marks for us a path toward healing. If you’ve faced—or are facing—heartache from dysfunctional family relationships, “Forgiving Our Fathers and Mothers” will give you a hopeful place to start.
If your past haunts you, nags you, hangs on to you, wages war with you, Gari Meecham invites you to make peace with your past. In “Hope for Your Wounded Past,” she offers specific steps that can help you move beyond mere determination to real acceptance.
Letting go isn’t just about healing from the hard stuff; it can also mean a conscious choice to let go of what may seem to be good. Sometimes we’re the one clinging to the shadow of the past. This is especially true when it comes to memories of past dating relationships. Old boyfriends can easily become idealized in our memories, but when we hang on to those loves we can lose perspective on the present God has for us now. In “How to Let Go of Your Ex-Boyfriend,” Packing Light author Allison Vesterfelt honestly explores how critical it is that we let go of those past loves and to build and protect contentment in our marriages.
In “A Backward Glance,” Liz Curtis Higgs invites us to learn from a biblical woman who epitomizes the dangerous tendency to look back at—perhaps even to long for—the past. Though Scripture tells us little about what motivated Lot’s wife, we know that when God called her forward, she yet turned her gaze backward. Liz invites us to choose a different response to God’s invitations in our own lives.
Can we escape our pasts? No—in many ways, they have served to shape us into who we are today. But ought we linger there, either marred by their pain or grasping at them with longing? No again. For Christ calls us forward.
Let us gaze ahead!
Kelli B. Trujillo, Editor