Not that I have already obtained all this, or have already been made perfect, but I press on to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of me. Brothers, 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 3:12-14).
When Zac was nine, he played his one and only year of football. I was a nervous wreck most of that season, envisioning broken collar bones and head injuries and the like--but that's probably the subject of another post.
What I remember most from that season was a single play that happened during what we have since referred to as "the mud bowl." The boys played their last game on a field absolutely covered in mud. In most places, no field lines were visible. And you could tell they loved every gooey step.
In the last few minutes of the game, with Zac's team behind by a touchdown, the quarterback threw a pass to an unlikely target. The boy who looked down at the ball in his hand was a very tall, very gangly child who hadn't received a pass all season. He hadn't wanted to receive a pass. I think he enjoyed being out there with the others, but he never showed any signs of wanting to be part of the action. Today, he was.
For a split second, he just stared at that ball. And then, rising to the shouts of the parents on the sideline, he began running. Those long legs made for long strides, and at first, it looked like he would easily outrun the other boys. But after only a half-dozen steps, he turned over his shoulder and looked back. The pack was coming on strong. "Keep running!" we all shouted. He ran a few more steps, and looked over his shoulder again. And again, it slowed him enough that the stampeding boys made up a bit of ground.
Despite all our screaming--"Don't look back! Keep running!"--the child couldn't help himself. And though I think he could have easily made it to the end zone, he didn't. With just feet to go, one last look over his shoulder gave those tacklers the pause they needed ... and they brought him down.
Over the years, every time I read that verse in Philippians 3, I am reminded of that boy, and of the pack of hungry boys chasing at his heels. And I remember this about our enemy: he chases too. And his greatest goal is to bring us down.
Satan's great desire is to keep us looking back. He loves to bring up the past, because I think he knows that if he can get us looking over our shoulders, he can keep us from looking ahead. He can keep us in a state of despair, or hopelessness, or shame. Who among us has not made mistakes, and many of them? But our Father's forgiveness is vast ... and eternal. He doesn't remember those things He's already cleansed us of, so why should we?
When the choice is put to you, which would you rather spend your time doing: looking back at all your mistakes (which always look ugliest over your shoulder), or looking forward to the moment when you get your first glimpse of the face you most long to see; when you get a first look into those eyes that have watched you with compassion from the moment of your conception?
Life is too short to spend it analyzing the past, digging at our scabs, and regretting our mistakes. Today is a new day. God's mercies are new in it. We've turned a new page on a new year. And all the best is ahead.
This could be the year that Jesus returns for us. Let's spend these seconds, minutes and hours He's given us in working for His kingdom and anticipating His return. Let's thank God for the gracious cleansing of all our sins, and then leave the past where it belongs--behind us.
"Forget the former things; do not dwell on the past. See, I am doing a new thing! Now it springs up; do you not perceive it? I am making a way in the desert and streams in the wasteland" (Isaiah 43:18-19).