“Let go of your concerns! Then you will know that I am God. I rule the nations. I rule the earth”    Psalm 46:10 (GW).

Saving Mr. Banks is a Disney movie about an isolated, lonely, emotionally suffering woman. It is a story about Walt Disney and his efforts to secure the rights to make a movie about the book Mary Poppins by Pamela Travers. As the film progresses, we learn the supposed inspirations for Mary Poppins. And we come to understand why Mrs. Travers is so attached to story details that at first seemed arbitrary or insignificant. In the film, we discover that she has never come to grips with the past and as a result continues to be haunted by it. 

As pastor, people tell me their stories. Some of those stories are about the past. In some cases,  I have a hard time even imagining how difficult these circumstances must have been.  Because these past circumstances were difficult, people carry their past into their present by moving forward the bad memories from those years. You can see the signs. One young man hardly opens up to anyone. Another person shuts off anyone she didn’t trust. Still another harbored hate.  These are people that could be so full of life and joy and laughter, but like Mrs. Travers, their ability to let go of their past made them distant, moody, and cold.

Sometimes we are on a peak, sometimes we are in the valley. That is life. We can let it hold us down, or not. The trauma and trials that we go through are not the worst things that can happen to us.  The worst is when we let it give us permission to be bitter and withdrawn. The worst is when we rehearse our own sad story to the point where it negatively impacts our present and our future.

I can understand why people feel that way, but we cannot define our life by the losses we have suffered. You may have been embarrassed, shamed, stabbed in the back, betrayed, and cheated — no one’s saying this isn’t wrong — but it’s even more reason to find healing and peace. Isaiah 43:18-19 says, “Forget the former things; do not dwell on the past. See, I am doing a new thing! Now it springs up; do you not perceive it? I am making a way in the desert and streams in the wasteland.”

This passage provides a vivid description of a life damaged by past hurts – a life that has become a wasteland, a desert. Dwelling upon a record of wrongs weighs us down and heavily burdens us. But the Lord’s instructions to forget those former things and not dwell on them, comes with a promise. Letting go of the past enables God to do a new work in us.

Instead of dwelling on past hurts, we can let go of those memories and forgive the person that hurt us. Although we cannot make ourselves forget the memories, if we stop clinging to them they will fade significantly.

The backstory tells us that Mrs. Travers has been hardened by suffering. But so, too, has Walt Disney. The film’s heart and soul is in the four or five conversations between the two artists—she with her insistence that children must (as she did) face the hard facts of life, he with his belief that everyone should (as he did) transform the pain into happiness with a can-do attitude and a little revisionist history. We can do exactly that when we trust in God to help us let go of our past.

Discussion Questions:

  1. How have the past impacted your present? How can you replace those old soundtracks with God’s truth? 
  2. How could letting go of past pain and forgiving those who’ve hurt you help you become more of who God made you to be? What might the new you look like?
  3. What have you been holding onto that’s keeping you from fully experiencing the new life God has for you?
  4. What do you think would happen if you gave your deepest darkest secrets and regrets to God? Why are you afraid to take this step? What’s the worst that could happen if you did?