Birds flying in bushes scare me… when I’m going down the road… on a motorcycle. - Actually, any kind of movement in the ditch makes me flinch and there’s a good reason for that.
About ten years ago I headed into town on my motorcycle, on a hot July 4thevening, to return a movie. Coming back, I was going down the gravel road about 40 mph and as I passed our neighbor’s house their Rottweiler came charging out from behind a bush, furious that I would dare to ride a motorcycle past his house.
I saw him about the same time as I hit him.
The bike stayed with the dog and I went on down the road without it. My face hit the road first and then the rest of my body, which wasn’t protected by a helmet, followed. I skidded and rolled down the road, distributing gravel into as much of my skin as possible. Once I came to a stop I jumped up from shear adrenaline, ran about five steps and collapsed in the ditch. The neighbor, who watched the whole thing, came over and helped me get my helmet off, called for help, and then went and shot his dog, who was lying in the road with a broken back. I spent the evening in the ER getting gravel picked out of my arms and legs.
I have never had so much pain in so many places before in my life. Everything from my neck down hurt and I became a huge fan of drugs… in the form of prescription pain killers. Eventually the pain went away, the wounds healed up and today I have almost no visible evidence of those wounds. What I do still have though, is an intuitive reaction to movement in road ditches if I’m on a motorcycle.
By the way; there’s a whole back story here about the value of helmets and how God speaks through 5 year old girls, but that’s for another time.
The point is that past pain can create present illogical reactions. It’s not logical to be scared of birds flying around in bushes but that fear isn’t based on logic, it’s based on a bad memory.
If you live very long, you naturally develop reactions that are based on pain instead of logic. That worship song or the comment made by the preacher takes you back to a painful church experience. That song on the radio, that reminds you of a failed relationship, can make you feel the hurt and rejection all over again. That smell that’s tied to a place where abuse happened can instantly bring all that hurt back. That personality that reminds us of someone who hurt us, can make us pull away and put up walls. Even though the visible scars are gone and healing has happened the reactions don’t just go away.
In Hebrews, the author is writing to a group of people who were trying to figure out how to live in faith in light of their past religious experiences and the suffering they had gone through. In Chapter 10 vs. 32 they are actually told to go ahead and recall the former suffering, but in the following verses they were to see how God had given them compassion for others through their suffering and look forward to a better tomorrow. They could use the painful memories to trigger compassion and faith instead of fear.
Those two things can make the difference for us to as we try to resolve past pain and the reactions they produce. We can use our painful memories to trigger compassion and faith if we will allow God to soften our hearts towards other suffering people and to always look forward to a better tomorrow, it won’t take all the memories away but it will allow us to move forward in faith.