Over the summer I finally finished a book I’ve always wanted to read – Great Expectations by Charles Dickens. In the story there is a character that arrested my attention. Her name was Mrs. Havisham, a mysterious woman, of wealth and substance living on a large estate. Surprisingly, she one day calls for Pip (the main character), a poor, uneducated young boy, with an unpromising future. He is shown into the house and finds it dark and creepy. As he enters the room where Mrs Havisham is sitting what he sees is shocking.
She is dressed in her wedding dress. She is wearing a long veil. She has wedding shoes on. But as Pip looks closer he sees the dress and veil are not white but faded and yellow. Her dress that once fit her was now hanging from her aged, bony frame. Sitting in a chair she is hunched over like someone knocked the wind out of her.
As Pip looks around the room he sees what once was an impressive table set for a feast. Its now covered in cobwebs and dust. At the center of the table is something he can’t quite make out – a sizable, discolored blob, with spiders coming in and out of it. He later discovers it was a wedding cake. Mice and black beetles are crawling in the corner. Strange enough the clocks in the house are all stopped at the same time.
What happened to Miss Havisham? Pip later finds out she grew up in a troubled home with an unloving father. As a young lady she would give her body and soul to a dashing gentleman who swept her off her feet, but he was a con man. On the day of their wedding, with everyone there, he didn’t show up. He took her money and ran.
Totally devastated she stopped the clocks in her house. She never left the house, and never changed her clothes. She left everything, including the cake to mark the event. She never got out of her past. Over 20 years later she still wears the old faded dress from her wedding day nightmare and she lives a bitter, lonely, angry life, and brings great pain to others.
I thought Miss Havisham was a perfect picture of someone who is fixated on the past, unable to break free and to reach for the future. We can live in the past in three areas. We can fixate on our past hurts as Miss Havisham did. We loose our beauty, and our lives become sick and unattractive as bitterness eats us up inside.
We can also fixate on our failures. Holding onto failure robs us of the confidence we need today. It is so good to know we can have a new start when we call on Jesus Christ. He covers our failures and gives us a new beginning.
We can also fixate on past successes. We can coast in the present, living on the successes of yesterday. We know that we struggle with this when we hear the words, “I remember when…” coming for our mouths. “I remember when I was so in love with Jesus. I remember when I served the Lord. I remember when I would share my faith with anyone. I remember when…” Living on the successes of yesterday we coast in the future. Someone said, “If you’re coasting you always coast down hill.”
Mrs. Havisham’s once beautiful home was dusty, dingy, and dilapidated. Our past successes in time get dusty, lifeless, and unattractive.
Listen to Paul’s words in Philippians 3:13-14, “Brothers, I do not consider that I have made it my own. 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.”
God help us to forget what lies behind. You can’t hold onto the past and the future at the same time. It will tear you apart! Learn what needs to be learned, but forget the past and strain forward for what lies ahead.
Your past may have been great, but I guarantee you this. Your future is always better in Jesus Christ. Press on!