January 28, 2013

Remember to forget

Each module of the online course I’m taking has a quiz. The seminary uses Moodle, a wonderful piece of technology that enables all sorts of questions including multiple choice and one-word answers. The first week, I didn’t understand one of the questions and felt discouraged. This week, the quiz seemed easy and I aced it. That felt very good and I did a happy dance. Today, God tells me to forget both and press on.
Brothers, I do not consider that I have made it my own. But one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead, I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus. (Philippians 3:13–14)

Forgetfulness is a vital part of progress. I normally don’t dwell on past events, which annoys my children when they say, “Remember when…?” and I don’t, but I can dwell on things like personal failure, loss, hurts, and many things I should forget. Today’s devotional asks what does God want me to forget? I like the list…

Blunders. Everyone makes lots of them. I’ve spent far too much time beating myself up over goof-ups instead of using them as learning points and moving on.

Losses. These are also part of life. How much energy is spent moping over them? For me, forgetting the losses requires faith. That is, if God wants me to have whatever it was that I lost, He is well able to supply it. Otherwise, I didn’t need it anyway. Of course there are losses like the death of a parent, which are different. I cannot forget my parents, but God’s grace moved me through the grief so I can rejoice over memories of them.

Hurts. Personal injuries, not physical but emotional, are also part of life. While “forgive and forget” isn’t possible, forgiving releases them, like a child letting go of a balloon. When I hang on and refuse to let go, they become a poison in my heart, hurting me over and over with every remembrance. This is self-torture, not vindication, and foolish. It is also not being like Christ who forgives because that is His nature. In the forgiving, He never brings up again whatever I have done. He wants me to do the same with injuries against me. Never bringing them up or holding them against the perpetrator is more effective than forgetting them.

Success. This one makes me chuckle. How pleasant it is to remember successes and how dangerous those memories can be. The devotional writer says, “A person who can bear success can bear anything.” Doing well is not a problem, but dwelling on it leads to pride. Most everyone has heard that pride goes before a fall. The source of that actually says:

Pride goes before destruction, and a haughty spirit before a fall. (Proverbs 16:18)

As today’s devotional reading says, the human spirit can bear adversity far better than it can bear prosperity. This is born out when someone (usually with few prior financial skills) wins the lottery; it ruins their life. Any kind of success has the potential to do the same. For me, whenever my heart is lifted up in pride, I immediately turn my eyes away from God (from whom all good things come) to myself — and I cannot do anything apart from Jesus Christ. Pride puts me out on a limb, but it is also the root of sin and the reason for all downfalls and defeats. Learning to take success in stride by being thankful and giving the glory to God, then forgetting my part in it and pressing on is a great and important lesson of life.

Sorrow. Sooner or later, sorrow happens. I’m to take every heartbreak to my Lord and let Him “rule and overrule” in them. With Him at the helm, I will come out the other side refined and disciplined, better educated and more useful. Sorrow can be “woven into the warp and woof” of my life so that I am richer and stronger not impoverished or bitter, enabling me to press on. God’s grace is sufficient for even this.

Sins. The reading reminds me of Paul who consented to the death of Stephen, persecuted the church and even called himself the chief of sinners. Feeling that way is humbling and draws me to the foot of the Cross. While this is a good thing, it can be destructive when the focus goes off the Cross and turns to “poor me.” This is definitely not like God, for He says, “…I will forgive their iniquity, and I will remember their sin no more.” (Jeremiah 31:34) 

Another thought that makes me chuckle is the threat of dementia. If I don’t learn how to forget and how to rest in what God has done, it might happen anyway! Only with dementia, pressing on toward my goal could be a problem — because I might forget what the goal is also!

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