Philippians 3 – Eyes on the prize

Lilac Festival

Lilac Festival – Washington. Taylor Smith

The past. The present. The future.
Which one of these occupies your mind the most?

There was a period of my life where my mind was stuck in the past – lingering over memories of what life was like when my mom was alive and my parents and I considered ourselves the “Three Musketeers.” I would try to pretend that this past part of my life could still exist in the present, if I thought about it hard enough. That all my pain could be erased if I could just keep the past as fresh in my mind as if it were all still here.

While it’s important to be conscious of our past, to keep in remembrance the people, places and experiences that played a part in making us the people we are today, to stay in the past is not healthy.

When our minds remain transfixed on the past, we often become marred in bitterness, remorse or in a good case of what I like to call the “should of, would of, could of -s.” Carrying around the weight of the past is a heavy burden to bear. It’s like going through life wearing 20-pound ankle weights when you’re trying to run a marathon. Carrying around the past can prevent us from remembering what is really important – the present and our future destiny.

In Philippians 3, Paul says that we live by “Forgetting what is behind and straining on toward what is ahead. I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus.” 3:13-14

Are there days when you’re so focused on the test you just took where you couldn’t remember the answers, days when all you can think about is the debt you incurred after you bought your car, days when the cruel words of a close friend seem to pinch at your skin and tell you that you aren’t a good person?

All the times when our minds are back in the past we tend miss the beauty of God’s creation that is so present all around us! It’s hard to notice the joy and silliness of two wild rabbits chasing each other around a rose bush when you’re thinking about the customer who wasn’t happy with the way her meal was presented to her. It’s difficult to catch the second that a child looks up at his mom with a huge, chocolate ice cream-covered grin when you’re thinking about how much you drank last night and what I poor choice that was.

But most of all, our obsession with the past tends to make us forget our ultimate Home that God is calling us toward. With the past that tries to trap us, we need to, as Paul says, strain on toward what is ahead. One day, we will be united with Christ in heaven. Isn’t that a more wonderful thing to keep in your heart over the struggles within your past?

So if you can, take the weights off your ankles. Put down the heavy backpack at the foot of the cross. Remember that the beauty of God’s creation surrounds you and that your Father is calling you to one day come Home. Those are the things we should keep on our hearts.

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