“Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus.”
Philippians 3:13b-14 (NIV)
I love this verse. It’s one of my life verses. God so often speaks to me through it. And today is no different.
Today, He speaks about forgetting.
Forgetting the past. Forgetting what is behind.
I don’t think God means for us to totally forget. At least, I don’t think He wants us to forget in the sense of losing the lesson. Our mistakes, after all, always hold potent lessons for us … and I think God wants us to remember and to learn the lessons our past can teach us. But He does want us to let them go. To bury them in the sea of His mercy. To let Jesus wash them away, as far as the east is from the west.
Competitive athletes learn to do this well. Competitive athletes learn to let go of mistakes so that they can focus on the present. Competitive athletes cannot perform well in the current play, for example, while still beating themselves up for the error they made in the prior play. They have to learn quickly how to let it go — yet learning from it — and move onto the next play.
Or so I’m told. Not being a competitive athlete myself, I am told that’s how it is. Personally, I have learned this lesson at a much later stage in life, and I’ve learned it best through yoga. Learning to be present and stay present in the current posture; letting go of the prior posture (whether I did it well or poorly) and staying present in the current one. Whether proud or regretful of the past, I am learning to let it go. And to stay present with God in today’s moments.
So may we learn to forget as a competitive athlete. Holding onto the lessons, releasing the rest into the sea of God’s mercy. Washed away by the blood of Jesus. And pressing on toward what God has called us to do and to be.
“This Jesus is ‘the stone that was rejected by’ you, ‘the builders, that has become the cornerstone.’ And there is salvation in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given among people by which we must be saved.” Acts 4:11 (NET)
I am not a yogi. But I do practice yoga. Once a week, on average. Yoga is great for my body, but it also teaches my mind and my spirit things. One of the things it is teaching me is to let go of self. Because sometimes I make mistakes in my yoga practice. Sometimes I have an off-day, for example, and I have trouble finding my focus and my balancing series suffers. On those days, I have a choice: to get frustrated and upset with myself or to let it go. To accept my frailty and imperfection, learn from it, and let it go. Or to beat myself up and continue in the falsity that I can do all of it right. Because I cannot focus on this posture if I’m still beating myself up over the last one.
And so it is with the rest of life. I make mistakes. Sometimes big ones. I make mistakes and I fall down and I sin. At that point, I have a choice: to beat myself up because I am “better” than that (Ha!) … or to accept my fallenness, turn to the love and grace of Jesus, let it wash me clean, and move on. You see, even self-flagellation about mistakes and sins and missteps is an exercise of self. Yoga reminds me to see my mistakes — to accept them and learn from them — to bury them in Jesus’ wounds — and to move on with deep, deep gratitude. Deep, deep gratitude, profound humility, and exorbitant praise.
You see, the God of the cross is not a God who then demands perfection. He knows me better than that. He is a God who loves me, who knows all about me, who knows my story, and loves me anyway. He loves me enough to provide me with a way out of my mess. He loves me enough to give me Jesus. And Jesus gives me the chance not to rely on myself, but to rely on Him.
And so, as I rely on Jesus — on Christ alone — I am choosing to let it go. Not to reside in the past, but to pursue God and focus on Him more and more in each present moment.