The sermon this last Sunday was titled “Letting Go of Our Past” and focused on the dangers of holding on to past failures (or successes) to the point that they prevent us from moving forward in life and in faith. The main passage in the Bible that was discussed was:
“Not that I have already obtained this or am already perfect, but I press on to make it my own, because Christ Jesus has made me his own. 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 3:12-14 (ESV)
One of the major points in the sermon was that sometimes we focus so much on something we can’t change (i.e. something in our past) that we lose sight of the good things God has planned for us in our future. This truth was unfortunately made clear in my own life this week in a very humbling way. Less than 24-hours after the sermon was preached, I found myself falling into the very tendency of holding on to a past mistake and actively watching it limit the future joy in my life… and although I eventually realized my attitude was in need of changing, I unfortunately ruined a nice evening with my wife before I came to my senses. Since I am the one that preached the sermon, I feel it is only fair that I now give you a practical example of how to apply it (or what happens when you don’t apply it) to daily life.
The story in a nutshell is that I have been carrying around a fairly large amount of cash with me lately and managed to misplace it sometime this last weekend while out shopping with my wife and kids. This money represented the accumulation of leftover funds from our Christmas budget, part of a bonus from work, and a few generous cash gifts from family members… not an insignificant sum to be sure. And somehow I LOST IT! I had been carrying it in a paper envelope (no, I don’t own a real wallet) and realized it was missing Monday night as my wife and I prepared to go out on a date.
Well, as you would expect, we looked everywhere for it before we left for the evening. We called the restaurant and stores we last visited, we checked the dirty laundry pile, the gaps between the seats in the car, and I even went so far as to check the refrigerator. We turned the house upside down before finally accepting that we had probably lost it (or rather I had lost it) in a store or a parking lot. As you can imagine, I felt pretty terrible about the whole thing. Terrible enough that I couldn’t stop talking about it, thinking about it, stressing about it, complaining about it, or apologizing about it for the rest of the night… which, by the way, does not make for a very good date-night conversation and brings me to the point of this story.
My wonderful wife was gracious and understanding enough to forgive my mistake and not hold it over my head in hopes that we could still enjoy an evening together, but I was not so kind to myself. I couldn’t let go of something that was now beyond my ability to change, and as a result I ended up allowing something I could not control to control me. My focus on my past mistake (albeit very recent past) robbed me and my wife of a wonderful evening together. I missed out on joy because I could only dwell on the past.
I am happy to say that I did finally move on… and while I still remember and regret the mistake, I understand that there is nothing I can do about it now. When I told one of my sons about losing the money (in hopes that he knew where it was) he said, “It’s ok Dad, God will let us find it someday when we need it more.” Although I highly doubt that we will find this specific envelope in the future, I do believe that my son is correct. God has always provided for my needs despite my tendencies to goof everything up… and I am confident that He will continue to do so.
I hope that this story spurs a few thoughts regarding things in your own life and your own past that still require letting go of. If it does, and if you have an example that is appropriate to share, please feel free to comment on this post. May you “forget what lies behind and strain forward to what lies ahead” and may God always remind you to check your pockets for your envelope of cash before leaving a store, parking lot, or restaurant.
Your Worship Pastor