How was your year? Most of us have some fond memories from 2019—and some that we’d be happy to forget. Good or bad, the past is past, and it makes no sense for us to dwell on it. I’ve often said that our Christian walk is not about the past but about the present and the future—a sentiment that Paul expresses in Philippians 3:13-14: “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.” But, the longer I’ve walked with Christ, the more I’ve come to realize that forgetting the past isn’t always easy—nor is it always desirable. As painful as it is for me to remember some of my past errors, the memory of them helps me to keep on guard against falling into the same kind of traps in the future. And, in many cases, those memories motivate me to try harder in difficult times, so that I can make it through victoriously. This, too, is something Paul talks about, saying, in 1 Corinthians 15:9,10, “I am the least of the apostles and do not even deserve to be called an apostle, because I persecuted the church of God. But by the grace of God I am what I am, and his grace to me was not without effect. No, I worked harder than all of them—yet not I, but the grace of God that was with me.” We must strive to keep a balanced attitude about the past. We have to let go of any feelings of guilt and unworthiness over our past mistakes, but we must not forget past mistakes entirely. Instead, we need to take warning and motivation from them. Mike Tomlin, coach of the Pittsburgh Steelers, said of his team, “Our windshield is bigger than our rear-view mirror.” His point was that our focus and motivation must remain on what’s ahead of us, but, at the same time, we must keep a cautious eye on what’s behind, in order to navigate safely. Happy New Year!
Otis A. Fortenberry