Do you ever feel like the past controls you? Like it locks you into a cage of expectations that will never let you go? I’ve been there far more than I would ever like to admit. There are things about myself that I wish had never existed, and sometimes they trap me and suffocate who I want to be. The past is hard because it’s unchangeable. What I did I can’t undo, and I can’t un-be who I was. But when I dwell on my failings and the pieces of my past that haunt me, I let them stifle the present – and consequently, the future as well.
The past was never made to dictate the future. The past was never made to control you. When you hold onto it, it clings to you like someone who is drowning. And in the end, you both panic and drown.
God never meant for us to dwell on the past like that. He made the past to be a guidepost – a reference point now and again to remind us how far we’ve come. It should never chain us down and keep us from pressing onward in our walk with God and personal growth. I think of it like a rock wall. Every situation we encounter is a handhold in that wall.
Philippians 3:12-16 says:
“Not that I have already obtained this or am already perfect, but I press on to make it my own, because Christ Jesus has made me his own. Brothers, I do not consider that I have made it my own. But one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead, I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus. Let those of us who are mature think this way, and if in anything you think otherwise, God will reveal that also to you. Only let us hold true to what we have attained.“
In order to climb higher on a rock wall, you have to reach and grab a handhold – but once it has served its purpose, you must let go of it. Continue to cling to it and you will get nowhere. Once a handhold has served its purpose and you’ve moved higher, it would be ridiculous to climb back down the wall just to cling to it. Sometimes you lose your grip and you fall a little and have to grab it again, but it was never made to be something to cling to.This is how I’ve come to understand what it means to “forget what lies behind” – not that you really forget it; God wants us to remember the past and remember what He did then. When we wander a little, sometimes we need to remember the past and where we came from in order to get back on track. Grab that old handhold again to get back up. But rather, forgetting what lies behind means you let go of the past in order to embrace what God has for you next.
Strain forward to what lies ahead. Press on. Remember the past, but remember that it is only a reference point to show you how far you’ve come on your journey. “Hold true” to the height you’ve climbed to, and don’t go back down just to cling to an old handhold. Keep climbing!