“Brothers, I do not consider myself to have taken hold of it. But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and reaching forward to what is ahead.” Philippians 3:13
Suffice it to say that most of us would prefer to erase 2020 from the calendar, to fast-forward but certainly not rewind, and to press on into 2021, do not pass go, do not collect $200. This year, (2020, often muttered with a twinge of sarcasm and a hint of disgust), has easily become a negative association for many of us, and, at the moment, with no end in sight. For me, 2020 signals not only a new decade on the Gregorian calendar but also an end to this decade of my life and stepping into the next one. Age has never really bothered me a whole lot. It is, after all, only a number. When I was younger, I always wanted to be a tad older than I was, for, perhaps then, people would take me seriously. When I was a young teenager, I dreamed of being 16 and earning all the independence of driving a car. After that milestone, I was ready for the next one of 18, where I would truly be an adult. I was a young mother and often felt like I had to prove that age did not disqualify me from being a good mother. I had my four children in six years, but I remember thinking that if I were just 29 or 30, then people would think I was old enough for all that responsibility. Granted, these were not every day, conscious thoughts but existed on the periphery, thus being fueled by my own glaring inadequacies. In the last several days, I have been reflecting on this new chapter of my life that will begin at the end of this month. I have laughed with God several times about my 40 years of desert wandering coming to end on my fortieth birthday, thus me beginning my new decade in my promised land. Though I am joking, there is a little bit of truth found in the comparison. The Israelites were unable to enter the Promised Land for 40 years due to their lack of faith in God. As God and I have been journeying through my first 40 years, He has faithfully been showing me some things I should discard before stepping into the next decade. How about I leave behind my insecurities, a whopping portion of pride, fear of failure, and a lack of faith in who God says I am! 2020 can hang onto my past shame and guilt, self-doubt, and a lack of self-confidence. May I truly forget what is behind–the accusations the enemy of my soul hurls at me–and reach forward to what is ahead. Like the Israelites I have not believed God to be enough; therefore, I have sabotaged access to all God has planned for me.
When I read the words of the apostle Paul, “forgetting what is behind and reaching forward to what is ahead,” I am encouraged. Yet there is a delicate balance in the remembering. While God remembers our sins no more (see Hebrews 8:12), He does allow us to not forget them, yet His purpose in our remembering is for us to never forget He has been the one who has rescued us. He removes our guilt and our shame and offers us full forgiveness and redemption. He allows us the gift of remembering so that we never forget how He has acted towards us, that we never forget our desperate need for Him, and that we never return to the former way of living. I am reminded of Lot’s wife. As God provided rescue from the burning cities of Sodom and Gomorrah, they were instructed to not look back–for they were not going that way. Yet, Lot’s wife looked back on what was to become her former way of living, and she became a pillar of salt. Forgetting what is behind is for our own good, even if what was behind was seemingly a good thing. The apostle Paul penned the verse quoted above after stating his own biography and resumé only six verses prior. If anyone had anything to remember in a good way, it was he. He was well-educated, well-bred, and more than well-qualified to be a Pharisee. Yet, he said he considered all that could have been a gain for him, a loss because of Christ. Paul could forget and release all that he was prior to Christ because Christ was all that mattered, his future with Christ was what counted, what he did for Christ is what would endure.
Forgetting what is behind is a gift when we handle it with the utmost care and do so in light of all God has for us in the future and the expectation of our coming inheritance in Him. We keep pressing forward because He is our prize and He is the one for whom all of this is worth. We act on what we remember. If we remember God’s activity, goodness, and grace in our lives, then we will behave as those who have been graced by God’s goodness. And, we have all been graced beyond measure by God’s goodness. Let’s not let 2020 steal from us the perspective that we must continue pressing forward into Christ. Even in the midst of hardship, challenges, uncertainty, fear, depression, anxiety, political unrest, civil unrest, and spiritual warfare, Christ remains the inheritance and the gift. He has deposited nuggets of grace for us during this time. Let’s be looking for them and looking forward and looking up. May we forget what is behind but never forget the One who has carried us and been with us every step of the way.
In just a few short weeks, I will turn 40. And I am more than okay with that. I am excited to see what God is going to do in this next phase of my life. I am shaking off unbelief, reaching forward, grabbing His hand, and following Him into my promised land–believing His call on my life and His promise that He is faithful to complete in me what He began. Shedding the shame, the guilt, the fear, the pride, the unbelief, the self-condemnation, I am now putting on compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness, patience, love, strength, dignity, and boldness. Will you?