Galatians 2:1-21 (NRSV and The Message)
Has your present ever been slowed down by your past? Do you find yourself reliving certain situations or scenarios from your past that you wish were handled differently? Do you live in the past, or do you live in the present?
When I read and re-read the second chapter of Galatians, I can’t help but feel for the Apostle Paul. He is struggling to live in the present, but the new believers he is trying to teach and disciple keep him going in circles and having to relive the past. We all know people like that. The game begins at the end of chapter 1, verse 18 when Paul begins recounting his ministry experience from three years ago. Then in this chapter, chapter 2, he dives even further back to 14 years ago when he first began preaching the Gospel to the Gentiles. He is doing all of this to defend himself and his character. Paul is clearly frustrated but trying to explain, that he has been at Gospel-Proclaiming a long time and has not wavered; they are the ones going astray.
What were you doing 14 years ago? I was finishing my Junior year of college and arguing with God about what was next. I had heard my call into ministry at age 14 at Warren W. Willis Summer Camp but had run away from it. And so, by this point, I was tired of running and I was ready to strike a deal with the Creator of the Universe (not my wisest moment). I told God that if God wanted me to be a pastor, God would have to not just open doors, but fling open the windows as well. You all know what happened next. I started the Candidacy Process, began meeting with my mentor, and let the dream of being a Music Minister go. I started researching seminaries and planned a Spring Break road trip with my friend Casey to visit United Methodist seminaries in the South East. You know, just the “normal” thing that every College Junior spends her Spring Break doing at age twenty-one! The rest, they say, is history. But that is what I was doing 14 years ago. While I am not in the same place that the Apostle Paul was in, it helps me to remember what God was doing in my life in that season.
For Paul, in Galatians chapter 2, he is reflecting on his past and remembering the struggles and the challenges he had to overcome and he is citing this in his letter to offer validity to everything else he has worked to establish. How very frustrating, but how very human of him too. Sometimes we live in the past because someone else has dragged us there. Sometimes we revisit the past because we have to help others know that we mean business. And other times we creep back to the past of our former lives because we need help remembering what God has been at work doing from the beginning.
I don’t know which past you revisit or how long you stay there, but here is my question. What is God teaching you as you look back on who you used to be and what you used to be about? Was that different 14 years ago and how was it different? Each year we get a chance to reflect on the person we are becoming as the Holy Spirit works within us. I invite you to spend a little time today reflecting on your past; what you learned, what you took for granted, what relationships you built up, and which ones you let go of. And then I invite you to read aloud this Scripture from The Message version of the text and spend time with it in prayer this week.
“ 19-21 What actually took place is this: I tried keeping rules and working my head off to please God, and it didn’t work. So I quit being a “law man” so that I could be God’s man. Christ’s life showed me how, and enabled me to do it. I identified myself completely with him. Indeed, I have been crucified with Christ. My ego is no longer central. It is no longer important that I appear righteous before you or have your good opinion, and I am no longer driven to impress God. Christ lives in me. The life you see me living is not “mine,” but it is lived by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me. I am not going to go back on that.” Galatians 2:19-21 The Message
As you reflect on the past you have lived, what you learned and how you grew, can you see where God was in the midst of those moments? Are you able to say, who I am now is not who I once was and “I am not going to go back on that!”
In the name of the Creator, Redeemer, and Sustainer. The God of our past, our present, and our future.