“But one thing I do: Forgetting the past and looking forward to what lies ahead, I press on to reach the end of the race and receive the heavenly prize for which God, through Christ Jesus, is calling us.”
~ Philippians 3:13-14
Memory can be a tricky thing. Case in point: family reunions which include reminiscing together about childhood memories.
Have you ever recounted a story which you “remember like it was just yesterday”, only to have another relative give you a funny look before correcting your recollection—based on their pristine memory of the story?
And, depending on how competitive your family may be, a vigorous argument about whose version of the childhood story is “right” could ensue.
Pretty much spoiling the nostalgia vibe.
Church memories, like family reunions, are no different. Especially if those memories include—oh, how shall I put it?—“difficult” transitions.
The further we get from ‘ground zero’, the less trustworthy our memories are. That’s an undeniable reality, and it’s no less true because it’s uncomfortable.
It’s also why re-hashing old church wounds is spiritually counter-productive, to put it mildly.
Hence the wisdom in St. Paul’s words at the top of this post: forgetting the past and pressing on.
In the original context of this passage, Paul is talking about the good things in his spiritual pilgrimage so far. He’s not lamenting his sinful past/present nor the difficulties he’s experiencing—he’s ‘forgetting’ even his great, mountaintop experiences in order to reach for something better, something yet unattained.
Something on the road ahead, not the road behind.
It’s not a stretch to suggest that if Paul was willing—eager, even—to ‘forget’ the great things God had already done in his life in exchange for something better, it would be even more appropriate for Christ-followers today to ‘forget’ negative church experiences.
Yes, I know. I’ve been there. You can’t just flip a switch in your head/heart. Recovery takes time, nurture, and wise counsel.
But years later, like the family reunion example, you can’t afford to trust your memories of the event(s). Which means a practice of continuing to re-hash everything (think: ripping off a bandage over and over) is not only unproductive, but a form of spiritually-dulling bondage.
- St. Paul’s point: Don’t rest on your spiritual laurels—press on.
- Robby’s addendum: Don’t let your past become a ball and chain on your spirit—press on.
As the book of Hebrews encourages—inspires—us: “let us strip off every weight that slows us down. . . and let us run with endurance the race God has set before us (Hebrews 12:1-3).”
What is yet ahead—‘the undiscovered country’—is well worth it.