Something very cool happened in my life recently. I was receiving e-mail from a local school’s admissions department, when I noted the admissions counselor’s name. It was the same name as a kid I knew from my high school youth group. It’s a fairly rare last name (Mark is his first name, common enough), so I thought I’d call up the school and see if this was the same guy. It took a little bit of phone tag, but we were finally able to connect—sure it enough, it was my friend Mark. We hadn’t talked to each other in probably a decade. The last time I’d seen Mark was at a concert in a small community park back home—shortly after I was married. It was a great blessing in my life to be able to reconnect with someone from such a formative period of my life. I began to think about our times together: we’d been on mission trips together, we’d been at weekly youth group, and even had some good memories from retreats we took. Then I began to think about my youth group in general—how many people I still have contact with vs. those who have seemingly dropped off the face of the earth.
I also began to think about how many people from my own past do not hold entirely positive memories for me. If I ran into them, would I feel the same joy as I did at running into my friend Mark? I think there’s some value in reconnection, even if it’s not all daisies and sunshine. Look at the Biblical picture of Jacob and Esau. When they part company, Esau is ready to kill his brother, Jacob. And not just in the sense of, “I’m gonna kill you” that all brothers eventually claim. This was more in the sense of, “I have motive, means, and opportunity to kill you, and I will do it.” What happens later, though? Jacob takes off for more than a decade only to return to a brother who is overjoyed to see him. That’s a pretty drastic change between visits, but it’s what time does for us—it gives us perspective.
For instance, how many people return to their high school for a ten year reunion only to find that the people they may have shunned in social groups back then are actually pretty normal human beings? I know this isn’t always true, some people can stay jerks forever. But, isn’t it one of the great hopes of our lives that we will indeed mature? That we won’t always be childish, won’t always have to have the last word, and won’t always have to be right in order to beat everyone else? After all, Esau’s anger seems legitimate—his brother stole his rightful inheritance. And his own mom helped! If there was ever a reason for sibling rivalry, this was it.
It’s possible you have some pretty negative memories about people in your own life. It’s possible that some of the reasons for those negative feelings are good reasons, and it’s likely that some of them are for bad reasons. I don’t ever want to tell you how to respond to your own past—it’s yours for a reason. However, my suggestion is that if time can heal Esau’s wounds, time can heal yours as well.