In his ground-breaking work on the human mind, psychologist Sigmund Freud taught that by delving deep into your past life you could learn how your early childhood experiences created the person you are today. While much of Freud’s work is no longer accepted, it is now assumed by many that what you are as a person today is largely a product of your past experiences. Are you the hard-working, responsible type? That is because you are an oldest child, and the oldest child is often given more responsibilities and more discipline and the expectations are higher; therefore, they turn out to be more responsible. Are you likable but irresponsible, always trying to be funny? That might be because you are the youngest in the family and you decided at an early age you had to act up if you wanted to get a little of the attention. Are you fussy, neat as a pin, quick to go after even the smallest piece of dust? Well, that’s because that’s how it was in your home, and to this day you can’t stand a mess. Or, on the other hand, it could be because you were raised in a messy and unorganized house, and your neatness now is a reaction against how you were raised. Either way, and in many other ways, this can be made to work, and whatever you are can be explained by how you were raised and other past experiences. That, anyway, is the theory. We are a product of our past.
While we know our minds are too complex to be explained by any one theory, we certainly do understand the importance of our past and the way we were raised. After all, isn’t that the hope of all parents, that they do the right thing and raise their children in a proper way, so that they can have some positive influence on their children’s adult life? As every parent knows, kids will go their own way, and there is no way you can perfectly pre-program the desired results; but we do have some influence. Even so, parents can control only a part of what a growing child experiences. And, no matter what experiences any one has, there is also, always the matter of one’s own God-given free will. Certainly, your past is an important part of who you are, but it is by no means the only part.
But another big part of what goes into making you who you are is your future. This isn’t thought about as much, but we may, in fact, be shaped more by our future than by our past. Let me illustrate how this happens.
Brothers Peyton and Eli Manning are great NFL quarterbacks. Their past probably had something to do with this, being the sons of a professional quarterback Archie Manning. The Mannings were a sports minded family, always playing something out in the yard, and the boys learned much from their father. Eli says that their father encouraged them, played with them, and taught them, but he did not force them to play any sports at any level. The boys were allowed to make their own choices about school activities and future plans. Did they want to pursue this interest in football as encouraged by her father, or, would there be other interests that they would want to pursue?
Peyton, Archie, and Eli Manning
Children don’t always move into something just because their parents are encouraging it. I went to school with several farm boys. Some wanted nothing more than to get done with school and go farming. Others, couldn’t wait to graduate, go to college, get into some other kind of work, and never again have to look at another cow, pig, chicken, or bale of hay.
The Manning boys chose to keep playing football, and somewhere along the line, after making that choice, the future began to be a more important influence than the past. No longer were just playing football in the back yard because that is what their dad liked to do. Eventually, they were playing football because out ahead in their future, they could see themselves in the NFL, just like their dad. That future hope began then to shape and determine everything they did and every decision they would make– how to spend their free time, where to go to college, who to have as friends, what to eat, how to exercise, and everything else. Their past experiences shaped them, but now, their future hopes were determining much of what they did. In their past they were exposed to football and developed a love for it. But it was the future hope of a career in football that turned the game into something more than the leisure-time activity that it is for most people.
You don’t have to be a pro football player to know how this works. Parents might encourage their teenage son to get a job. Because of how he was raised, he might already be a hard worker and more than happy to do so. Therefore, his past is a factor, and then with his own free will he chooses to go along with the idea. But before long, something more important than anything else comes into play. There is the future goal of a car that can be purchased, and while the boy is working, he is counting how fast the money is adding up and how soon his future goal will be realized. His present life is being thus determined not so much by the past anymore, as by the future. (continued…)
Philippians 3:12-14 — Not that I have already obtained this or have already reached the goal; but I press on to make it my own, because Christ Jesus has made me his own. Beloved, I do not consider that I have made it my own; but this 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 heavenly call of God in Christ Jesus.
O Jesus, fill me with your love, and I pray, and use me a little for your glory. I pray that you accept me and my service. Amen.
–David Livingstone (1813-1873)