Dr. Jennifer W. Shewmaker

Parent, Teacher, Author

On the Journey: Learning to Embrace Your Past

This week-end I had the opportunity to spend some time with a group of women who spend their time nurturing, supporting and encouraging adolescent girls. As a gift to them, I wanted to give them the chance to consider their own journey as they help the girls in their lives along the path. What an amazing experience it was to share that time with people who often give a lot to others, but don’t take the time to care for themselves. Do you fall into that category too? Many of us find a lot of time to nurture others but leave little time to nurture ourselves. In order to help you learn to care for yourself a little better, I’m starting this new series: On the Journey. It will guide you through the stages of learning to fully experience this journey of life.

To be able to truly appreciate and grow through the journey of our life, it’s important for us to do 3 things: learn to accept our past, find the beauty in the present, and develop a vision for your future. In this post, we’ll consider the issue of learning to embrace our past.

As older children, adolescents, and adults, we all come to the journey with our own set of baggage. What’s in your suitcase? We’re going to spend some time today unpacking our own baggage. As we consider the journey of life that we’re on, it’s important for us to consider where we’ve been and how those experiences have shaped us.

Ask yourself, what do I have in my suitcase? What are the positive experiences, knowledge, skills, and strengths that I have? What are my challenges? Each of one of us has our own individual sets of strengths and weaknesses. To embrace our past, we must acknowledge both and think about the best way to use each for benefit in our current situation. It’s much easier to think of using our strengths to benefit our journey. But what about our weaknesses, our challenges, and those painful times in our life? Somethings that we must consider as we think about our own journey are the areas of Detours and Darkness.


When we’re on a journey, we often find beauty in unexpected places. Maybe we took a wrong turn, only to find ourselves in a quaint little town or an ancient forest. Maybe we missed a train, and ended up having lunch at a perfect little restaurant. In my own travels, some of my favorite moments have occurred in unexpected places and unplanned moments.


Think about your own journey. What are some of the detours that you’ve experienced? What are the ways that your life has gone off the track that you expected? Even if they were unexpected, did they end up being positive experiences for you?


Sometimes our biggest challenges can open up opportunities to do good in ways that we may not have expected. However, it may take great courage on our part to be willing to share those. Some of the things that make you most able to love, serve, and care for others may be the greatest challenges that you face. One of the most beautiful things in life is being able to take a dark moment and bring beauty from them. I encourage you to seek healing in any area from your past for which you haven’t found peace. Allow that painful time in your life to become something that can bring good into your life and the lives of others.


Think about your own challenges in life, about those dark moments. How might that experience be used to help the young people in your life? Do you need to experience healing in that area before it can be used for good? What do you need to do in order to be open to using the dark times in your life to guide, care for, or heal others?

Each one of us brings something unique to the journey. I have a friend who once said, “I regret some things that have happened in my life, some choices that I made. But I have found that those dark days have made me the person who I am today.” When we allow them, when we seek healing in our own hearts, eventually the times of darkness and detour can become moments that bring light into the lives of others.

For example, my friend Serge who experienced the Rwandan genocide. It would have been easy, even fair, for Serge to let that horrible experience of years of pain and abuse to make him into a bitter man who wanted nothing more but to protect himself. He could have decided that the world is pure evil and spent the rest of his life hiding from it. Instead, Serge has emerged from the darkest of days into pure light. He has allowed his heart to be healed and used his experience to spur him on to making this world a better place.

Is this easy? No. Is it possible? Yes. Your darkest moments, your detours in life, can become sources of inspiration and strength for you. But first, you must find your way to healing. If you haven’t done so, if you have splinters in your heart that are festering, please consider finding a therapist or wise, trusted friend who you can talk with. You are beautiful, my friend, even in your brokenness. Believe in the power and beauty of yourself, and begin to move toward healing and wholeness.

2 comments on “On the Journey: Learning to Embrace Your Past

  1. Shawna Mathis
    November 15, 2011

    Sometimes I dread the question, “Why do you want to …?” Most of the time this question is coming
    from a job or school opportunity I’m looking into. But they don’t want to hear the cliche answer:
    Because I want to help people. However cliche it is, it’s true for me. I want to use all of my life (good
    and not so good) to guide others. I loved what Christa Black said this past weekend: her ministry, her
    book, her songs are to guide young girls so that they don’t end up making the same mistakes she did.

    • Jennifer Shewmaker
      November 15, 2011

      Beautifully said, Shawna. I find that our struggles may be the things that help us reach out to others the very most. Especially when working with adolescents, being willing to be real and share your own mistakes with them can help them open up and have some honest conversations that they may not have been able to have with anyone yet.

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