Jimmy Hoffa was a key leader in the mob in the 60‘s and 70‘s and accused of being party to terrible crimes. The mystery surrounding him is legendary, but none more illusive than where and how he died. Hoffa was officially declared dead in 1982 but his body was never found. However, this was not for a lack of trying. Since 1975 over 15 different leads have led to countless hours expended by FBI agents and excavating companies digging up locations where he was presumed to be buried.
It’s been estimated that for just this one case well over $3 million has been spent looking for Hoffa. A dead guy. Who is still dead. And will continue to be dead when and if they find where he’s buried.
There won’t be any Hoffa arrest, interrogation, or trial. Hoffa won’t be able to stand in front of his victim’s family’s and give an answer as to why he did what he did. Why?
Because he’s dead.
Yet we still search and I’m sure when this most recent dig in a field in Michigan turns up nothing but cow bones, PBR cans, and old Eminem CDs they will not stop looking
The reason is that it seems to be our human nature to dig up dead stuff. We love to dig up things in our past and other’s past all the time. As a pastor, I usually see this past exhuming process occur in 3 different ways.
1. Exhuming The Past To Learn
Sometime digging up the past comes from a genuine desire to know the truth about where we’ve come from. Family lineage and seeking to know about who you are and where you came form can be incredible healthy. I know of people that have discovered siblings they never knew, royalty they were a part of, and details about their great grandparents they never shared. Digging up the past to seek clarity on your present can be extremely helpful and exciting if kept in its pure form.
2. Exhuming The Past To Hurt Others
Other times we dig up stuff to use against other people to make sure they don’t forget what they did. Typically I see this type of exhuming done in unhealthy relationships. In the heat of an argument about something “big”, like leaving the toilet seat up, a venomous snowball will be created. It’s formed out of past offenses, hurts, and fears that he or she did from years ago which have nothing to do with the porcelain predicament you currently are in. A huge fight ensues, both sides are wounded, and they stand in a graveyard of dug up bones of their past that they thought they had buried.
3. Exhuming The Past To Punish Yourself
Finally I see people dig around in the past so that they don’t forget the things they did. It’s personal punishment so as to maintain the proper amount of guilt and shame those offenses demand. They feel they have forfeited any right to joy in their life because of what they have done. Sadly, these people will live in a perpetual state of self-induced depression and guilt because they can’t put the shovel down. Digging up their past has become their one and only future endeavor.
As healthy as digging up the past is to learn about who you are, using the the past to hurt and punish is exponentially more detrimental. In fact God would say that by doing this you are sinning because you have lost sight of what forgiveness is.
“Bear with each other and forgive one another if any of you has a grievance against someone. Forgive as the Lord forgave you.” – Colossians 3:13 (emphasis mine)
I am not saying that when someone does something to you it doesn’t need to be addressed. Sweeping things under the rug is not forgiveness. I am saying approach the situation with the same attitude and heart that Jesus approached us. A heart beating to offer grace to one another. Forgiveness is choosing to not allow your past to define your future and walking in the freedom God gives us through forgiving others as He forgave us.
Digging up the skeletons of our past does nothing more than re-dirty our hands and keeps us from being washed clean by the grace of Jesus Christ. Once God has made us clean through Jesus the last thing he wants us to do is dive back into the muck He pulled us from.
So let’s stop digging in graveyards and start living in the freedom Jesus promises.