I spent most of my 30-year career working for DuPont as a stylist in their carpet fibers division. I followed color trends, made samples using the fibers we produced and visited customers, helping sales and marketing reps explain the exceptional qualities of our products. But there was a brief stint when I worked with bath rug fibers, the softest, most luxurious fibers we made for floor covering end uses.
Even though over three decades have passed, I clearly remember a customer meeting where we were requesting input on a developmental fiber. I touted its attributes and started a single sample on its journey around the conference room table. It never made it beyond the owner of the company. Like a child with a pet bunny, he stroked the sample repeatedly, exclaiming over its softness. I passed out other samples featuring styling suggestions for existing fibers. He’d finger them, comment, then pass them along, all the while retaining possession of his far-superior prize.
I can’t recall if anyone else got to touch the prototype or how I eventually removed it from his grasp, but I can still see him stroking that sample.
Controlled by the Past?
I was recently reminded of this long-ago scenario when daughter Mary introduced me to the intriguing phrase, “story fondling”. I followed up our conversation with some online searching and came across an article that described in more detail what Mary alluded to. In essence, story fondling involves an unwillingness to let go of the past and move on. Instead, some of us choose to hold on to past hurts and regrets, be they self-inflicted or brought about by others. Much like my customer and the beloved sample, we grasp the memories, caressing, replaying, retelling, until they come to define and, all too often, paralyze us.
Please don’t misunderstand. I know firsthand how detrimental denying the impact of our past can be. We may manage reasonably well in the present, at least until something tears the scab off a long-festering wound. Early in my marriage, I’d occasionally respond to something with such intensity, my perplexed husband would comment, “Don’t you think you’re overreacting?” Of course, his query only served to fuel my dismay and evoke glare-accompanied replies such as, “You don’t understand!” Nonetheless, looking back with a perspective transformed by time and Truth, I know he was right. My vehement response had a little to do with the event that precipitated it, but so much more to do with the inner demons it awoke.
The father of lies (John 8:44b) delights in pushing “play” on the litany of negative messages we’ve embraced. Like a pesky earworm of the soul, the subconscious recording relentlessly repeats:
- “You messed up. Again.”
- “You’ll never be good enough.” (Or smart enough or thin enough or pretty enough or . . .)
- “If people really knew you, they wouldn’t like you.”
A Renewed Perspective
Those well-worn, oft-replayed lines may feel comfortable in a twisted sort of way. After all, they’ve been part of us for a long time. But we belong to the Good Shepherd and are meant to listen to His voice as He contradicts the lies. Scripture assures us we are:
- new creations in Christ. The old has passed away; the new has come (2 Corinthians 5:17).
- being transformed from one degree of glory to another (2 Corinthians 3:18).
- being conformed to the likeness of Jesus (Romans 8:29).
- eternally and securely loved by the Father (Romans 8:31-39).
Not only does God’s Word give us a true picture of who we are in Christ, but it also points us forward:
- This is what the Lord says—he who made a way through the sea, a path through the mighty waters . . . “Forget the former things; do not dwell on the past. See, I am doing a new thing! Now it springs up; do you not perceive it? I am making a way in the wilderness and streams in the wasteland.” (Isaiah 43:16;18-19)
- God forgives our sins and removes them as far as the east is from the west (Psalm 103:11-12), thus we may say with the Apostle Paul, “But one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead, I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus” (Philippians 3:13b-14).
- Ultimately, all things will be made new and perfect (Revelation 21:1-5).
Informed by the Past
Long-time readers of this blog know I’m intentional in remembering milestones, anniversaries and loved ones who’ve joined the great cloud of witnesses (Hebrews 12:1). Though there are days I’m tempted to indulge in self-pity or allow past experiences to become excuses for present behavior, I endeavor instead to use these times of recollection to:
- remember God’s faithfulness (Deuteronomy 7:9)
- give thanks for His deliverance (Psalm 40:1-3)
- celebrate my legacy of faith (2 Timothy 1:5)
- resist repeating former sins (1 Corinthians 10:13; James 4:7-8)
- comfort others with the comfort I’ve received (2 Corinthians 1:3-4)
If you’re going to cling to a story, make sure it’s one worth holding onto!
I once was lost, but now am found, was blind but now I see.
I love to tell the story – ‘tis pleasant to repeat what seems, each time I tell it, more wonderfully sweet; I love to tell the story, for some have never heard the message of salvation from God’s own holy Word. I love to tell the story! Twill be my theme in glory – to tell the old, old story of Jesus and His love. 
 “Amazing Grace”, 1st stanza, Text: John Newton.
 “I Love to Tell the Story”, 2nd stanza. Text: A. Catherine Hankey.