Updated: Jan 3
It is in the stillness of my mind that I encounter the ghosts of my past. It may be that everything is going well, and then suddenly, a song, a book, a laugh, an interaction, a comment, a conversation, an image, a moment, a post, or a place can trigger waves of painful memories from my past that flood into the present, trying to lay claim to my future. These memories show up in tears, misplaced anger, misunderstandings, accusations of innocent people, building walls around my heart, and negative reactions. If I do not rise up in defiance to confront these instant replays of my past, I will be swept away.
Recently, I was driving home from work listening to music. It was just a typical workday, nothing unusual. Everything was good. The road was closed due to construction, so I had to take a detour onto Joppa Road. I had a terrible car accident on this same road a few years ago. Another driver broadsided my SUV at a high rate of speed which made my vehicle flip over twice into oncoming traffic. My truck was totaled, but I walked away by the grace of God! Since I moved to this neighborhood, I have never experienced any negative reactions while driving on this road because I thought I was healed of that trauma. I thought I was over it. After all, this took place a few years ago. I never had to stop on this street. I just went on my merry way to wherever I was going. However, the road construction meant I couldn't just cruise down the road as I normally would. I had to wait in traffic. I had to sit there and look over at the place where I had my accident. I wanted the traffic to hurry up and move so I wouldn't have to deal with it, but I couldn't. I had to sit there.
There's a spiritual principle here that I didn't get at first, but now I do. There's something about sitting down that causes you to think and focus. So often, we feel that we have healed from a trauma when all we've been doing is staying busy, so we don't have to deal with it. In the scriptures, before Jesus fed the five thousand, he posed a question to his disciples. "Where shall we buy bread for these people to eat?" (John 6:5, NIV). The disciples were faced with a problem, a dilemma, and Jesus wanted to see what they would do. They only had five loaves and two fish. How in the world were they going to feed five thousand people with that? The disciples expressed how impossible this task would be. However, the first thing Jesus said to them was, "Have the people sit down" (John 6:10, NIV). Another translation says, "Instruct the anashim (men) to recline" (John 6:10, OJB). The word recline means to lean or lie back in a relaxed position with the back supported. In other words, when we are faced with a dilemma or a problem, resting and leaning on God will put us in a position for our needs to be met regardless of the situation. Sometimes, we have to gather ourselves mentally and "go sit down somewhere," as the elders used to say.
As I sat in traffic, the scene from my car accident started to replay in my mind, as if the trauma triggered a file in my mind and opened it up. I remember the driver of the other car coming and hitting me out of nowhere. My SUV rolled over twice into oncoming traffic. The airbag deployed, and fluid leaked from the dashboard onto my clothes. All I remember seeing was the sky because I was upside down. I remember saying to God, "I'm not ready to die." Finally, when my vehicle stopped rolling, there was a man there who helped me get out. The door was bent, and he pried it open with his hands to let me out. My face was stinging with chards of glass, and I was in shock.
I started trying to pick up my personal items and books for my classroom off the street. Yes, I actually did this! The man who helped pry me out of my vehicle asked, "Are you alright? You need to get help." He walked me across the street to an auto repair store called Mr. Tire. The guy in Mr. Tire said, "Ma'am, we saw the whole thing [the accident]! We've called an ambulance for you. Is there anyone we can call for you?" I said, "I need to call my husband." My purse was in my truck, so they went to get it for me. When I got my purse, I found my cell phone and called my husband at work. I couldn't reach him after three tries. Finally, after the fourth try, a woman at his job answered the phone. I paused. She paused.
I left a message for him to call me back and that I was in an accident. When he called back, I told him what had happened. After I stood there clutching the phone, literally in shock and looking disheveled, almost losing my life, and trying to keep the phone from scraping my face, my husband said, "I don't know if I can get off work." There was no "Baby, are you alright? Are you okay?" There was no sense of urgency in his voice. It was as if I meant nothing to him. When the ambulance arrived, they took me to the hospital. They kept asking me if someone was with me. But I was alone during this whole ordeal. Finally, my husband arrived. He was calm and cold. He greeted me with a cold, nonchalant look as if I had just interrupted his day. He never hugged me or helped me out of the ambulance. The whole time, I was thinking, "I almost died, and this is how you treat me?" When he stood next to me as I lay on the gurney, it wasn't out of love but out of obligation. There was no interaction between us other than to make sure I did what the doctors told me. It was like he was just a bystander looking at a woman he didn't know. My husband, a born-again Christian, had become a total stranger to me.
When they finally found me a room in the hospital, he asked me, "Did you have life insurance?" I remember dead silence after that question. This incident, along with other addictive behaviors, led to the breakdown of our marriage. An individual who engages in addictive behaviors will become a completely different person, a soulless shell. After quietly enduring all of this behind a mask of Christianity and a "stick by my man no matter what" mentality, something inside me rose up, almost as if I suddenly had an awakening. I came to myself and remembered who I was. I said to myself, "I am a daughter of God and I deserve better." Eventually, I filed for divorce later after sixteen years of marriage. He remarried soon after the divorce. After getting remarried, he called me crying a year later. I told him to move on with his new life and family. After saying those words, I felt such strength and freedom because I knew I didn't deserve such treatment. That experience was so painful that I vowed never to go through it again!
I was still sitting in my car on Joppa Road, waiting for traffic to move as I continued replaying the scene of the accident in my mind. I felt angry and rejected all over again. I was experiencing an instant replay of my past. Webster's dictionary defines instant replay as a video recording of an action (such as a play in football) that can be played back (as in slow motion) immediately after the action has been completed. When your mind engages in instant replays of your past, good or bad, it returns to the scene, the memory, the image, and the incident and replays everything in slow motion. The replays include all of your feelings and emotions at the time. Keep in mind that this incident happened in the past, several years ago. But my mind is replaying it as if it were happening now.
I had two choices that day. Either I would succumb to the instant replays from my past, or I would rise in resistance. I was determined not to relive those memories again. I had grown so much after so many years. I wasn't going to look back in the rearview mirror and cancel out that growth. My self-confidence remains unwavering. There is value, worth, and meaning in my life. I may have been scorched in the fire, but I came forth as pure gold! I overcame that incident through God's grace and protection, and I am still here. Unfortunately, this instant replay would still pop up from time to time. It was necessary for me to find an alternative thought or word that would override the instant replays from my past.
When you override something, you take away its control, and you now have the power. To override means to use one's authority to reject or cancel a decision or view. Another definition defines the word override as prevailing over and conquering. You will find that in your life if a memory caused a good or bad emotional response, you will remember it and the feelings associated with it. It is almost as if the mind considers it a file and imprints it into your memory. But is there a way for me to overcome the instant replays of my past?
We have the power to leave our memories there or recall them to the forefront of our minds. If it is a painful memory, leave it there and override it! Let the good memories override the bad! There was nothing good in that car accident, but I lived to share my testimony. Although my SUV was totaled, I walked away without a broken bone in my body. I came to myself and remembered who I was as a daughter of God. God saw fit to interrupt my day to restore me to wholeness in the area I needed to be healed. Scripture tells us in Philippians 4:8 (KJV), Finally, brethren, whatsoever things are true, whatsoever things are honest, whatsoever things are just, whatsoever things are pure, whatsoever things are lovely, whatsoever things are of good report; if there be any virtue, and if there be any praise, think on these things.
The only thing that can override the instant replays of the mind is thinking about good things and remembering God's goodness. Has anyone ever done something good for you on a bad day? Even though it was a small gesture, it made such an impact that it became the only thing you could think about. The kindness you received outweighed your bad day. It is often said that the good outweighs the bad. There's some truth in that.
Although, I didn't like having to relive a painful experience. I had to sit in it to realize I was still there. I thought I was over it, but I realized now that I only suppressed it. So you see, we can go through our daily lives thinking we're good and everything's fine, and then God will send you on a Joppa Road experience to bring what you have been suppressing to the surface.
Let me encourage you. Yes, your past happened to you, but it does not define you. Most people would say get over it, but I say sit down, face it, and then move on. This sentiment is echoed in Deuteronomy 1:6 (NIV), "You have stayed at this mountain long enough. When you dare to confront your past or a painful experience, the mental shackles will fall off, and you will be free. Your past is only one chapter in your life. So stop flipping back the pages. Instead, learn from it and move forward. Remember, you are holding the book. You have the power to close that chapter in your life. You are not powerLESS. You are powerFUL! Let your past propel you into a new chapter in your life!