The Virtue Of Forgetting The Past
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….Philippians 3:13-14
A paraphrase of Philippians 3:13-14 says, “I am still not all I should be, but I am bringing all my energies to bear on this one thing….” The “one thing” Paul wants to put his energy toward is a wise forgetfulness of the past so that he can prioritize the present goal of aligning his ambitions with the will of God.
We can all identify with “still not being all that we should be.” Paul’s advice is to keep moving forward in growth. Examining our past mistakes and studying history are actually important aspects of growth, but Paul’s point is that we cannot “push toward the prize” with full energy if we’re using a lot of energy looking backward.
It’s okay to acknowledge a failure in your past. But if we cannot “forget what is behind,” we run the risk of letting the past define the future. God does not define us by our worst moments, so neither should we! Take the time you need to absorb, learn, and grieve, but then focus on what is ahead.
The goal ahead of us isn’t simply being in the future. The goal we press toward is learning to prioritize the present in the light of God’s direction. Yesterday, today, and tomorrow each have their own worries. We can acknowledge our emotions in each season – “I am still not all that I should be” – without letting our shortcomings drive our lives.
Resource reading: Philippians 3:1-21