Leaving the past behind
by NINA BROWN
Third Church of Christ Scientist, Grand Rapids
The apostle Paul writes in the Bible (KJV Philippians 3:13-14) about forgetting things which are behind and looking forward, moving forward, to “…the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus.” Many times I have been comforted in knowing that if Paul could forget the past, forget that he was Saul and had been an accessory to the death of many Christians, including consenting to the stoning death of Stephen (KJVActs 8:1), then I can forget my past.
There was a time when fleshly things kept me from moving forward toward God. I did think about God and prayed as best I could, but I continued to be pulled off course regularly until, like Saul, I was ready to see the goodness already present in me. I thought about the words from Genesis 1:31 (KJV), “And God saw every thing that he had made, and, behold, it was very good.” I realized that God made me and He made me good, so I couldn’t be fooled into thinking I was bad.
I am now staying on a forward course more often than not, but occasionally feelings—grief that I wasted so much time neglecting my spiritual journey and guilt that I may have been an unsavory influence to others—overcome me and would shipwreck my progress if I let them. More words from Paul (Romans) help steady me: we are (I am—you are) “heirs of God, and joint-heirs with Christ…” That means I can, you can, accept the gift of grace given through Christ Jesus, the same grace that moved Jesus with compassion to heal multitudes. As an heir of grace I have a responsibility to obey the two great commandments given us by Jesus: to love the Lord thy God with all the heart, the soul and the mind and my neighbor as myself. I find I can’t obey these when my thought is filled with regret, because the regret becomes more to me than God.
Along with the Scriptures, I study Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures by Mary Baker Eddy. She writes, “A mental state of self-condemnation and guilt or a faltering and doubting trust in Truth are unsuitable conditions for healing the sick. Such mental states indicate weakness instead of strength.” It is clear Paul did not waste his time in self-condemnation and guilt or looking behind at past bad choices. He moved forward toward goodness and God’s purpose for him. He healed many people. including a young man named Eutychus, who fell three stories to his death (KJV Acts 20:9-12). Paul was filled with the grace and strength of Christ and he lived them through healing and teaching as well as establishing and nurturing Christian churches.
I believe we are all “heirs of God” and anyone who struggles with the past can move forward. I try to remember that each day I am offered the opportunity to choose whether I will spend my time in regret and delay, or in joy and gratitude, which enable me to look forward and experience progress. I have learned that I can join Paul in looking forward, in “forgetting those things which are behind.”
As I close the door on the past, the door to the future opens, illumining my way forward, enabling me to follow Jesus’ teaching to love God supremely and my neighbor as myself. I find comfort and encouragement in these words from Paul (KJV Ephesians 4:32), “…God for Christ’s sake hath forgiven you.” I believe that, when needed, everyone can move forward in God’s love and promise of forgiveness.