We are encouraged to never forget—anything. From faces, to memories, to math equations, to old wounds—we are told to not let them slip away. There is great merit in remembering beautiful things and people. And knowledge is a good thing to keep about. Hurts serve a purpose, if they make us more like Jesus in not doing the evil that was done to us. And only if one doesn’t become unforgiving and bitter.
But there is something that needs to be forgotten, pushed away, and removed from both sight and mind. The pieces of our pasts that harm and hinder us in our relationships with God and others need to be shoved away—forever. Paul in his letter to the Philippians calls his readers to join him in forgetting the weighty past and press on into the future (3:13).
The author of Hebrews tells his running readers to throw down those things that are weighing them down in their race (12:1). Leave those things behind—and don’t go back to re-pick them up. Sadly, it’s the same old things that continually trap us, slow us down, and break our hearts. There is no end to the idols churned out by the world, our fleshly nature, and the devil himself. Some of these things are good in themselves, but as soon as they become a heavy idol, they begin the suffocating process of either crushing or consuming us—their worshippers.
Paul speaks to these chains we wear, when he gets in the face of the Galatians and simply says, “You were doing so well in your race. Who cut in on you to make you fall away and slow down? What’s the problem?” (5:7—paraphrase).
Sometimes this “cutting in” comes from the words of people. Words that sink our spirits and cause us to doubt the goodness of God. And sometimes it’s in the form of memories. It could be something we never had, something that hurt us terribly, or something we’re hoping will still happen to us. And sometimes it’s masked in legalism or the lies of the devil—we get trapped in believing we have to do or be a certain way to be viewed and/or accepted by God and people.
For me, one of the things that really held me back was in the form of relationships. Specifically, relationships with a couple of guys. Each one of these guys held a huge chunk of my heart and very life. I was quite convinced that if I had one of them, I’d be happy for the rest of my life. And just like my namesake, I looked to God but kept my own “household gods” behind my back—for backup, just in case Jesus wasn’t enough, didn’t satisfy enough, or didn’t seem to love me enough.
A relationship that led to marriage was the all it, to end all of it. I was willing to sacrifice the great longing of my heart to be a missionary or in ministry for a man’s love. Only that man wasn’t Jesus. And in my state, a relationship with anyone but Jesus had the great potential to consume or crush me.
These men broke my heart. Quite likely because I was looking for them to stop the ache in my heart that was only meant to be healed by Christ himself. Without them, I was undone, incomplete, empty. I didn’t want to do this life without one of them by my side.
But I am. Because of God, I am. Because one day this winter, I woke up and realized I was done. There was nothing left. Jesus gave me strength to dare to forget and move on. And move on, I did. These guys were followers of Jesus and chased His heart. But they were never meant to be mine. Their friendships were gifts from God and I will always be grateful for the times we had together. But those seasons are in the past and in the past they need to stay.
One of my very favorite missionaries, Adoniram Judson, is credited with saying, “Your future is as bright as the promises of God”, and with all my heart, I believe that even when our present and future lives don’t look exactly like we would have planned for ourselves, the promises of God to go with us, to love us, and to do his works in and through us are rock solid. And you can take that to the bank.
So today and tomorrow, the cry of my heart is Jesus, just Jesus. My eyes are on him—the author and perfecter of our faith—the one who began and will bring our faith in him to completion at his return, the one who has already ran every race before us (Hebrews 12:2). And he has won.
Dare to forget the past and press on into the future. Your perfect future—lovingly and beautifully created by a sovereign, good God. Throw off the things that weigh you down and run for the open arms of Jesus.
With Paul, I want to be able to say that as for me, I know nothing but the crucified Christ (1 Cor. 2:2). When the Gospel is big enough, God is big enough, and everything else (past hurts, present brokenness, future loss) becomes like snow in May-forgotten in a moment.