Two Reasons We Must ‘Burn The Ships’ In Our Past In Order To Claim Our Future

Two Reasons We Must 'Burn The Ships' In Our Past In Order To Claim Our Future

  I recently read a story about Spanish explorer Hernan Cortes who, in 1519, set sail for Mexico with a total of 11 ships, 13 horses, 110 sailors, and 533 soldiers.He faced a population of five million indigenous people, which meant, the deck was slightly stacked against him as he approached land.

Previous expeditions had failed.But what Cortes did after landing was something seismic.He issued an order that turned this mission into an all-or-nothing proposition.He yelled out to his crew, Burn the ships!On his order, they set everything ablaze, watching their fleet burn before their eyes.

They had to burn everything that gave them an option for retreat, if they were going to lean-in and embrace the challenges of conquering new territory, of fighting an unknown enemy, of reaching out to lay hold of their uncertain destiny.

While the historical context of their pursuit can be debated, what I am learning about my own journey is how easy it is for me to keep one hand reaching forward into the future while tightly gripping things in my past.

As a therapist, I see the past as a necessary exploration to understand and heal so that we can successfully unhook from the powerful forces that forged an unhealthy, unbalanced, unclear identity within us. This freedom allows us to embrace a new identity, rooted and planted in the soil of our belovedness, firmly established in life-giving forces that lead to greater boldness, clarity, and strength for our future.

Like the children of Israel longed to return to slavery in Egypt, we too, have a tendency to go back to the familiar, to lean on an identity of victimization, of anger, of brokenness that has defined us, but has never yielded the life of abundance for which we’ve longed.The past can be so easy to revisit, to distill, to own as our soul-self even though it has brought no healing, no relief, certainly no life.

What I know is that at some point in our lives, each of us must make the choice —to burn the ships of our past identity in order to reach forward and cultivate our new identity in Christ, or to stay chained to our past, its influences, and heartaches and continue to live out of its power and its pain.

Here are two reasons we need to burn the ships of our past identity and claim the destiny God has for us.

You cannot bring the old into the new.

You cannot pour new wine into old wineskins.You cannot bring Egypt into the Promised Land —its beliefs, traditions, its ways.It will contaminate you.Infiltrate you.Overtake you, every time.The only way to move into and claim your new country, your new identity as God’s Beloved, healed, whole, complete, is to release all that has held you captive, all that has defined you, writing both unholy and unkind words over your life. You cannot build a new, healthy identity on an old foundation that is cracked and crumbling.

2 Cor 5:17-18 (NIV)tells us, Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come: The old has gone, the new is here! All this is from God, who reconciled us to himself through Christ and gave us the ministry of reconciliation:

You have an idea what the new country looks like. Still, you are very much at home, although not truly at peace, in the old country. You know the ways of the old country, it’s joys and pains, its happy and sad moments. You have spent most of your days there. Even though you know that you have not found there what your heart most desires, you remain quite attached to it. It has become part of your very bones.

Now you have come to realize that you must leave it and enter the new country, where your Beloved dwells. You know that what helped and guided you in the old country no longer works, but what else do you have to go by? You are being asked to trust that you will find what you need in the new country. _Henri Nouwen – "The Inner Voice of Love"

You can burn the ships of your past.You can let go of the identity that has broken you, and brought you to this place.Right here, right now, lean forward and grab hold of the truth of your authentic self, as one who is held and loved by God.Claim compassion, kindness, truth, as your identity instead of condemnation, deception, and destruction.Claim your freedom —today.

Your past identity says:

I’m broken

I’m bad

I’m not enough

God cannot love someone like me

Others will leave me

I’m not worthy of love

Your present identity says, because of Christ:

I’m healing

I am worthy

I am enough

I am loved with an eternal love

God will never leave me

I am God’s Beloved and I am worthy of love

Burn the ships!The old country is not an option.The new country is right before your eyes.And what it has to offer you is worth it!

To read more about identity, read "How To Walk Away From Your Pain and Embrace  a Life of Peace!"

You Cannot Claim Your Destiny As Long As Plan B Is An Option

You survived your childhood, you did.You were a brave little thing. No one should have experienced, endured, or overcome so many obstacles, much less scaled the mountainous terrain that stood in your way.You made it.

But the survival skills you needed in your childhood are hurting, limiting, even destroying your life and relationships today as an adult.They squeeze you from the inside out.Suffocate any hope of something different, something new, something boldly healthy.

As long as Plan B is an option, you will always willfully linger.Subtly stagnate.Hesitation will cover each step you take and you will never gain traction, heart-momentum, or passionate vision for your healing or your future.

You must burn the ships.You must stop looking back, longingly, to the old city like Lot’s wife did.It will winnow away any hope of conquering, of claiming this new life and this new land that is yours to possess. It will leave you as dust.

Genesis 19:26 (NIV) warns, But Lot’s wife looked back, and she became a pillar of salt.

Your new country, your new identity is full of hope, freedom, and a future.Your relationships are safe, solid, and strong because your identity is the very same.Fear no longer holds you captive.Shame no longer calls you by name.

Your name is Beloved.Remember that —Beloved.You indeed are worthy, enough, safe, complete, whole, and prized.This is your identity and your destiny.

Burn the ships!Your future awaits you!


About This Community

Don't we all want a little peace?  My heart for this community is to provide just that - a needed refuge from all the burdens that weigh us down, some encouragement and inspiration to keep us weary travelers moving forward on our journeys, and some practical advice to help each of us navigate the challenges of life and relationships.  Whether in our parenting, our marriages, our faith, or the broken places in our hearts, this place is for anyone who dares to reach beyond the hopelessness that surrounds us and embrace a lifestyle of emotional abundance and peace!  

About Peace for a Lifetime

In my new book, Peace for a Lifetime, I share the keys to cultivating a life that’s deeply rooted, overflowing, and abundant, the fruit of which is peace. Through personal and professional experience as a Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist, I've discovered how to take the broken pieces of life and find indestructible peace with myself, God and with others. Through my story and other’s stories you’ll realize that you can experience the life for which you long. You can experience abundance beyond anything you can imagine. You can experience peace, not just for today, not just for tomorrow. You can experience peace —for a lifetime!

Peace for a Lifetime is available on

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