"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. 13 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, 14 I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.” (Php 3:12–14)
My daughter ran Track and Cross-Country in high school. One lesson ingrained is to never worry what or who is behind you, but focus on what or who is ahead: how much further you need to run to conserve energy or push a little harder, and whom you still need to pass to win. Running a race is always a good metaphor for life. The apostle Paul certainly used it often.
With Christmas behind us and New Year’s looming ahead, it’s hard not to become retrospective about our lives, especially with so many “Best of” lists coming at us in the media. The new year brings award shows for best movies, music and books. Every January, I blog about the books I’ve read and which resonated with me. I also write my Top Ten list of movies from the year before. Eventually, we focus ahead, as what happened last year becomes merely a footnote in our personal histories.
For some, however, what has happened in their past clouds how they see the future. Last Christmas someone was alive and healthy, this year they’re gone. Last year I expected certain accomplishments in my life, but they never happened. Life is full of unavoidable sad moments and disappointments. This is why Paul’s statement becomes critical, of “forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead.” I don’t agree completely with that statement. Novelist George Santayana famously wrote, “Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.” Since, biologically, we cannot truly forget what lies behind us - memories are fickle things – we should try to see the good and bad moments of the past year as stepping stones which have led us a little closer to God’s plan and will for our lives.
Where we are today in reaching our dreams and goals, to discovering His will for us, is not solely defined by our “Best Of” moments. They are equally shaped by every “Worst Of” moment. Good times beget happy memories so we hold onto them as we move into the new year. Refusing to acknowledge the lessons learned from the darker times, the mistakes that detoured us off the path, is to be less prepared for what’s ahead. In a race, it’s important to know whom we have yet to pass to win. The only way to know this is to remember who is behind us. It’s important to plan, to dream, to pray and set goals in order to see the road before us. Equally important is to remember what not to do, learning from the lessons that have come before.
So as New Year’s looms, we should make our “Best Of” lists to remember happy times and successes, and thank God for the opportunity to have known the people we have loved and lost, and lastly acknowledge our mistakes and hurts, and what lessons they’ve blessed us with in order to better run the race over the next twelve months. Our goal should be to reach the end of next year a little closer to our dreams, and God’s will for our lives.
Holy Father, thank you for the “Best Of” and the “worst Of” moments from the past year. May the best memories remind me that life lived in Your will is joy. May the worst be opportunities to learn and correct the race we are all on.