“Not that I have already obtained all this, or have already arrived at my goal, but I press on to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of me. Brothers and sisters, I do not consider myself yet to have taken hold of it. But one thing I do: 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.” Philippians 3
I have found myself in a certain mindset at least 2 seasons in my life, and I caught myself back in this familiar position again the other day. I have a habit of trying to recreate previous favorable dynamics. I’ll explain…
When I moved back to Nashville after college I tried to recreate the friendship dynamic I experienced during those amazing years in Boston.
When I changed churches, which was a huge deal for me, I wanted to capture the same dynamic that was a part of my initial calling into ministry and church leadership.
As I have moved, I have caught myself, in a handful of ways, trying to grab a repeat of the relationships I had back in Tennessee.
I don’t think this tendency is entirely a bad thing at all. Who wouldn’t want more amazing memories and great relationships? But I am wondering why I gravitate more toward trying to recreate, than simply enjoying the new scene God is painting. It’s as if I am trying to photoshop over locations and faces rather than just framing one portrait and moving to the next, both to be hung on the wall and appreciated. Not a continuation of one theme, but one chapter in one story, each with it’s own set of plot twists and characters.
Scripture does this odd dance between prophets and authors instructing us to “remember” and “never forget” while also spurring us to “move forward” and “don’t look back.” For some reason, I seem to create a tension between these two dynamics. This is where my “all in/all out” or “baby and bathwater go together” personality needs to stop and submit to being present and appreciate how God is moving in this moment, for this season, in the dynamics that are actually in front of me.
As I’ve been sitting with Paul’s words to the church in Philippi I have been thinking on how I am responding to new things. The words Paul chooses and how we translate them, like turning a prism, give you various angles to consider. For Paul’s audience, in the midst of a developing new tradition and trying to understand operating within their culture and norms, and with their past in mind, Paul is directly addressing this tension of “how things were” and “how things can be in Christ.” Granted, the particular dynamics Paul is giving his counsel toward are far from my circumstances, but I still appreciate his words. I think many of us read the word “forgetting,” as Paul mentioned this “one thing,” and feel obligated to box up/draw walls/never to reflect upon again. But Paul’s language here is actually more of a reordering. Think of it is as re-prioritizing more than dismembering a portion of our story. There is a new order, and there is risk in not stepping into that, but that does not require a forfeiting of the past. It is not a this or that, but more a setting an intention to be where you actually are.
What are you struggling to let go and move forward? Where do you find yourself ignoring or avoiding the past? How can we learn to remember while pressing forward? There may be some things that need to be reordered. Let’s be brave enough to try.