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Posts Tagged ‘Forgetting the past’

Jo 23There are down sides, I’ve discovered, to having a more reflective personality. For starters, I can wallow in introspection. I can sit for far too long, thinking about things I have done in the past and how differently I would do it all now. In short, I can be the queen of post mortems!

Depending on how tired I am when these take place, I can lose all sense of perspective and end up seeing only the negatives in whatever input I have given or writing I have done. I can even find myself overcome with feelings of embarrassment and self-pity at times. And if I do not come to my senses, these can all too easily paralyse me.

Yet there is an upside to these post mortems as well. With God’s help, I can learn from past mistakes and grow just that little bit more. I don’t want to keep committing the same old errors and be unable to communicate God’s love in the best possible way. So after I speak somewhere, I go through my input, reflecting on what worked and didn’t work, what felt laboured and what seemed to flow well. I make a mental note not to use this or that illustration again, if it seemed to puzzle or not connect with my audience. Then, when I have finished, I file that input away and try to let it fade from my mind.

This issue of post mortems is very pertinent right now as I seek to write my second non-fiction work—another memoir, with a few lines of teaching in each chapter, as well as some reflection questions. As I go to write about some of the more draining periods of my life, I find I have to safeguard my spirit and try to follow David’s example of focussing on God:

My eyes are ever on the Lord, for only he will release my feet from the snare. Ps 25:15

Otherwise, I could spend hours staring at my computer screen, feeling the pressure of that past season of my life, and become exhausted all over again. Instead, I try to look back with more objectivity, relying on God to give me a better perspective on it all and show me what to pass onto others. That’s the mindset Paul seems to have had when he wrote the following:

Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus. Phil 3:13-14

It’s not that Paul never mentions his past. Even in this same chapter, he remembers how he was once a Pharisee and a persecutor of the church. By God’s grace, however, he became a changed person—a new creation, free to love and serve Christ (2 Cor 5:17-19).

That’s what I am too, I remind myself with joy, as I square my shoulders and set to work on my book again. I may well have made that unwise decision or spoken those hurtful words in the past, but, as Jer 31:34 reminds us, God has chosen not to remember them—and so should I. I can let go of it all and move on, knowing I am forgiven and am totally loved and accepted because of Jesus.

And that is such a wonderful, healing thing to be able to do, don’t you think?

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Life often has some interesting twists and turns, doesn’t it? Just when we think we have the future all worked out, we may find ourselves needing to move in an entirely different direction. Is it just the way things pan out? Is it that we made some wrong decisions along the way? Or is it that God sometimes intervenes and allows things to happen in our lives, perhaps giving us challenges to overcome?

I believe God has clearly had a hand in the many changes and challenges in my life, taking me out of places that were not helpful for me or conducive to my growth and leading me on to explore new horizons. Sometimes the journey was painful, but God was always there, strengthening me and moulding me into more of the person I was created to be.

In recent weeks I have been reminded forcefully of this as I have had to read through my journals that I kept on and off during the last eighteen years. Believing it is what God wants, I have embarked on writing a work of non-fiction that involves my own personal spiritual journey and the strategic part my wonderful mentor or spiritual companion, as she prefers to be called, has played in that. At times, I turned the pages of these journals very slowly, stopping here and there to remember well and to allow myself space to feel the emotions described there. I had been through some huge changes in those years – I had left a job I enjoyed, studied fulltime at theological college, undertaken a busy ministry role in our church and then closed the door on that, knowing God was calling me out. I had floundered a little for a year – and then God clearly led me to begin my writing journey.

Some things I read in those journals were wonderful. I had written out many great verses of Scripture that had encouraged and comforted me. I had copied out significant sections of some excellent books that now impacted me again as I read. There were moments recorded too that were very significant milestones for me – happy and fulfilling occasions such as my college graduation or times when God gave me fresh insights or moved powerfully in my life.

But I noticed many challenging and sad occasions there too – times when I was overcome by the pressures of life or filled with grief or angry and confused. It was emotionally draining even to read about some of these, despite the intervening years. In many instances I saw a person crying out to God, yet at the same time wondering where God was and why such things were happening to her.

And that’s just it. Now I could see myself back then almost as another person altogether, someone whose pain I felt and whose joy I entered into – but someone else nevertheless. You see, God has moved me on since then, strengthening me, healing me, maturing me and hopefully growing me to be more Christ-like. I see now how those things have made me into the writer I am today – and I can honestly say I am thankful for them all, despite the pain and grief they brought at times.

So now my task is to press on, allowing these life experiences to bear fruit in what I write, so that others too can be drawn closer to God and know God’s presence with them in their own journeys.

But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus. (Phil 3:13-14)

Let’s hand our past over to God, enjoy God’s presence today and trust God with our future. One day in heaven we will see the whole picture – and then it won’t matter anymore!

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