I had a remarkable and unexpected opportunity this last weekend.
I'd gone back to southern California to visit my aging parents. My dad is in a nursing home know and it was good to see him. My mom needed some help around their old house as well, and I was glad to be able to fix some things for her. But the unexpected gift came as I drove around the neighborhoods in which I grew up.
I found myself praying through my past. The loneliness of my junior high years. The rebellion of my high school days. As I drove around I would remember a person or an event, and simply invite Jesus into it. It was extraordinarily redemptive. It felt like Jesus and I were walking back through all sorts of things from the past, and as we did I could feel the emotion or the old way of looking at things, and I could invite Christ into it to make it his own.
I think God actually does this more often than we know. He'll bring up something that will trigger a memory - we might have a dream, or visit an old haunt of ours, we might see an old friend or sometimes all it takes is just a certain smell like cut grass or a donut shop and bam, we are back in some period of our life. In those moments, invite Jesus into it, into that period in your life. And linger there for a bit, allowing his Spirit to show you what to pray.
I found myself asking his forgiveness for the sins of my youth (Psalm 25:7) and the cleansing of that felt very important for my life and freedom now, in the present. (So many of these things retain a kind of hold on us, decades later.) At other moments I found myself inviting Jesus into an old relationship and what I found there was his love re-writing my past, coming into it. But most of all, I found myself expressing gratitude for how he has truly saved me. The contrast of my life from then till now was stunning to me. Change and sanctification take place so gradually that we often don't see how far we've come until we look back.
It is a powerful thing to redeem the past, bring it under the rule of Jesus and invite him to fill it. I think this is why he will bring it up in the present through some reminder of days gone by. When he does, invite Jesus into it, give it to him, let him heal or affirm or cleanse or redeem or return to you some gift of life he gave but you lost over time..