One of the conditions essential to the mastery of all that causes suffering is the ability to let go of the past. To “let the dead bury its dead" is requisite for continued progress and victory.
You have met with a most trying experience recently—one that has wrung your heart and brought conditions which are well-nigh unendurable. Your sense of suffering is keen—so severe as almost to swallow up every other sense. You forget that you have blessings, and you feel only your miseries.
So you hug your suffering closer to you and keep it warm by holding it close, while you fondle it continually, as if it were a well-beloved child. You think of nothing else; you talk of nothing else; it fills your world, covers your whole horizon.
And in this way you keep your grief alive, giving it more and more vitality, that it may sting you again and yet again. And perhaps, meanwhile, you are praying God to take it away from you, imploring him to remove it, for you cannot bear it.
Someone who is sorry for your suffering tries to comfort and help you, and attempts to show you that your case is not as hopeless as it looks to you; the trial and grief are not so severe as that which another, not far away, is undergoing; the blessings are many and waiting to be counted.
And then you resent what this one tries to do for you—resent the least little tug at that which you are hugging so closely to you; and you say, “She is so unsympathetic! She cannot see how intensely I suffer!"
You are the one who cannot see many things. You cannot see that if the God you pray to were to answer your prayer and take away your grief, He would use human means; and that this very friend is an instrument through which that which soothes and helps may be working. How do you expect anything of this kind can be taken from you if you persistently hold on to it and will not let it go?
'What is grief or sorrow? A feeling. What is unhappiness? A feeling. What is disappointment, dejection, despondency? A feeling. How can a feeling be taken away from you except as it is displaced by another one? How can it be displaced by another unless you will do your part, unless you will permit the cultivation of another feeling?
What do you find in a garden? Plenty of weeds when there is little cultivation; but with persistent cultivation more flowers and fewer weeds. What we help to bring forth from it is better than what it produces of itself.
Do not be hurt, now, when you are told that persistently keeping your misery alive by always thinking about it is a form of selfishness. Do not be surprised when you are told that you enjoy, yes, enjoy, your grief, even as some people “enjoy poor health."
Perhaps you feel a little indignant at being told this, but that is good for you. Unwittingly you will begin to loosen your hold a little; you will not cling so tenaciously.
Did you ever think, or observe, that nothing is so common as unpleasant, even painful, experience, grief, and even despair? These are feelings as old as the human soul; and when you say, "Was there ever a sorrow like unto my sorrow!" many in your near neighborhood have experienced its equivalent.
Look out into the world and see that there are others who are bearing burdens every day, far heavier than yours. Look, and then try to find out how you can lighten them, and in that effort you will have to use your hands, and so you will let go of that which you have hugged so close.
One day you will be surprised to find it gone, and in your soul a new, a heavenly guest; a loving tenderness for every soul that suffers; a willingness to spend and be spent if you can give them any relief.
How can you begin to get away from suffering? By dropping the past. By letting go of even yesterday. What have you to do with " a day that is done"? It is behind you, and today is yours.
By moaning over the past, by dragging that corpse into the present, you are losing glorious possibilities. Your past acts will die their own death if you will only let them. They belong to the past; the present belongs to you.
True, they will bear their consequences and you will have to meet these, but do you think you are better prepared to meet them by groaning, or weeping, or wailing?
Whatever prevents us from making the best of ourselves today is something to be discouraged. Whatever helps us to do and be our best today is to be encouraged. Is not this common sense?
Were you a rascal yesterday? Then be an honest man today. There is no other way of atonement. Stop thinking how you can gratify your own desires at other people's expense, and the rascal begins to die. Think how you can deal justly and honestly with others, even if you cannot thus have all your wishes gratified, and the honest man will begin to appear.
Transformation is possible inside of twenty-four hours. It is a mountain that is always at hand waiting for us to climb. Any day we may become transfigured to ourselves, and then we shall become transfigured without, eventually.
It is all in thought. Never a robbery was committed, a foul deed done, but it was performed in thought before a member of the body moved to execute the will.
"Though your sins be as scarlet, they shall be as white as wool."
How do we get rid of our sins? By forsaking them. How do we forsake them? By ceasing to think the thoughts which are the sins. The outward acts are only expressions of the thoughts. To be clean in thought is to be clean in life, and there is no other way. To become clean in thought is to let go the past and start anew.
We are all pilgrim souls, journeying together in a common road that leads to a common destination. Remember, the fleshly body is only something we use for a time and drop on the way, while we keep right on travelling. No one can afford to say, “I am holier than thou." Well for us if we can say, "I have been tempted and I have conquered. Let me help you."
As souls, the full stature is what we must reach. Why, then, hold on to the childhood? Why be so loath to let go its experiences that look smaller and smaller as we go on, if we will not persist in lugging them along with us?
Do not hold to the illusion that it is lovely and commendable in you to be so devoted to the past. It is nothing of the kind. It is like trying to travel with a ball and chain on your ankle. Cut loose from it in your thought. Stop revolving round and round it as the one center which draws everything to itself. You have a greater orbit to move in.
Climb that Mountain of Transfiguration which is sure to be found sometime in our pathway, and see yourself anew. Then think “according to the pattern shown you on the mount."
In your real being you are the child of the eternal God. As a soul you have to find your Source. Your past experiences were only missing the way. Hard, indeed, they were, for the straight line is the only safe path, and to wander out of it is to bruise themselves and become bewildered. But thanks be to God ! not one soul shall miss finding its way home.
Recreate yourself in thought, and the sinner shall become the saint, the wandering soul shall find itself in the Father's house. Only when we let go the past, let it go with all that belongs to it, girding our loins for the present and all that belongs to it, feeling that we are able to meet it, do we know A Happy New Year.
The first of January may come and go, and come and go again, and it is but the Old Year repeating itself till we make time new; till we stand over it instead of under it, bound to what it holds in the past.
The dead will always bury its dead if we let it. To press forward to that which is for us, no matter what we have ignorantly made for ourselves on the way, is the only hope of victory at last. When our thought is liberated from the past and set free to bring our destined future into the present, we begin to know "the freedom of the Sons of God."
Speak no more "I have been vile and wicked," but "I am made whole." Think love, and purity, and goodness, and truth. Fill the inner world with these creations, and the outer world will be changed, even glorified.
You cannot lie, you cannot steal, you cannot mourn and grieve, you cannot be covetous and selfish if you are at work with these thought creations; for then you are reproducing God's handiwork and there is no place for unlikeness. Beauty and joy and gladness shall dwell with you all day long, and sorrow and sighing shall flee away.
Oh! this is such a beautiful world, and the good is everywhere to be seen in it, when we get those blinders, the unhappy past, away from our eyes; when we are " new every morning and fresh every evening"; when we breathe deep draughts of the Breath of Life and say, " Because of what I am, this day is mine, and I am no longer the slave of the past. I am king in my domain."
"And I saw a new heaven and a new earth: for the first heaven and earth were passed away."