How many times have you seen this verse while struggling to change something in your life? Isn't it an awesome and encouraging verse? Up until now, I've kind of always thought Paul was telling us to completely forget the past, but I've kinda changed my mind. Today I want to look at "what is behind" and why we shouldn't necessarily forget all of it.
Recently, I read through some of my past Living Well posts as well as ones written while participating in Tales from the Scales (still online, but no longer operational), and saw something that I knew was there, but had chosen to ignore ~ the broken promises. Do you have those, too? Do you even remember making them? (PLEASE tell me I'm not the only who promises to change and then promptly forgets about it!)
Do you ever look back at your New Years resolutions or the plans for change you've publicly outlined here in the blogosphere? How many of you, like me, read through them (when you stumble on them after several months!), laugh at how unrealistic they were, and then promptly throw them out and/or dismiss them? Does reviewing them make you feel frustrated, discouraged, and embarrassed?
But God's song wasn't designed to make the Israelites feel good. It was to serve as a reminder of where they'd been, where they'd come from, in whom they were to place their hope and their trust ~ and the grace, mercy, and all-mighty power of their Heavenly Father. It was a warning of the consequences of heading in the wrong direction. God wanted them to look back and remember so they could learn from their mistakes and move forward, having corrected their course.
Past mistakes, broken promises ~ and even complete failures ~ don't need to be a discouragement. They can remind you instead of the person you once were. Looking back, I learn exactly where I failed. And quite often, I learn the why as well. And I can choose to let this discourage me, or I can choose to use this knowledge and understanding of my behaviours to fuel my resolve to change once again.
I challenge you to look back at your New Years resolutions, old blog posts, and old diary entries. Study them and determine where you went wrong. Then write out a new resolution. Don't promise to make huge changes or even necessarily give yourself a timetable. Simply resolve to be different and take one small step at a time toward your goal.
And most importantly, remind yourself of what you've written!! Put it on your fridge, on the wall beside your computer, or make it into a bookmark that you'll see every time you open your favourite book. Tell a friend and ask her to check up on you every now and again. Join a weekly or monthly blog accountability group or just post regular "keeping my promises" updates.
That way, you'll keep the promises fresh in your mind where you can actually do something about them. And the next time you look back to what you've written in the past, you'll know you learned something; that you SUCCEEDED IN CHANGING. It doesn't matter as much that you've reached the goal yet as that you've started to change. And THAT will put a smile on your face and a new spring in your step.
At the beginning of this post, I quoted Paul's words to the Philippians, but I like to put a little twist on them. I don't think he meant we should completely forget the past, but rather...
"Forgetting the mistakes I've made and the times I've failed, and remembering the promises I've made and the lessons I've learned, no matter how many times I have to re-start,
I press on toward the goal!!"