Not that I have already reached the goal or am already perfect, but I make every effort to take hold of it because I also have been taken hold of by Christ Jesus. Brothers and sisters, I do not consider myself to have taken hold of it. But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and reaching forward to what is ahead, I pursue as my goal the prize promised by God’s heavenly call in Christ Jesus.
Philippians 3:12-14 (CSB)
Well, it’s nearly spring. January has come and gone. Nobody has asked about your resolutions in weeks, and on the rare occasion you are required to write the date, your hand automatically draws the correct numbers.
We are fully into the new year now, and yet some of us are still living in the past.
We’re not even surprised when we break our resolutions again. Or we didn’t even make resolutions or set goals in the first place because why bother? We look at the hard situation we’re facing and think it will never be over, or we wonder if we’ll ever be out of the woods. Some of us even find ourselves questioning the good things that are happening. Surely, it was meant for someone else. Or maybe it’s not even real. Because we know we don’t deserve this.
A couple months ago, I watched the finale to a TV show about time travel. One of the characters spent much of the episode struggling with guilt over his actions in an alternate time line. As he whined — I mean, lamented — to one of the characters he’d hurt with his actions, she lost her patience. She said:
“Why are you beating yourself up over a history that only you and I remember?”
I couldn’t shake those words, even as the credits rolled. I started wondering if maybe that’s what Jesus is saying to me every time I dwell on the past, forgetting I’ve been forgiven and remembering every one of my mistakes, my bad decisions, my sins. Even He doesn’t remember those things. Psalm 103 says He removes our sins as far as the east is from the west, and Jeremiah 31 says God promises to forgive our sin and never remember it. No, we can’t change our past, but God will forgive it. No time machine or alternate time line required.
So why are we sometimes so determined to remember every misstep we’ve ever taken? Why do we bring to mind the ugly things we’ve said, the regrettable way we’ve behaved, the times we let others — and ourselves — down? Why do we hit “play” on that record, over and over again, until every detail is ingrained in our minds where they can’t be ignored or forgotten?
In the television show I watched, the two main characters were literally the only people who remembered what had happened and how much it had hurt. In our own lives, reality isn’t so kind. But even when forgiveness has been offered and time has begun healing wounds, we tend to hold onto the memory of our mistakes anyway — as if keeping the memories alive is some kind of atonement, rather than abuse. As if accepting forgiveness somehow diminishes our grief and regret. As if we cannot accept forgiveness until we have punished ourselves sufficiently.
Except . . . Jesus.
The One who deliberately does not recall our sins once He’s forgiven them? He’s the same One who took every bit of punishment we deserve. And He did it so we don’t have to. He looked at our dirty, tear-stained faces full of regret or defiance, shame or arrogance, and He loved us anyway — enough to pay the price for it all, in fact. When we asked, He forgave us. And then He washed us clean, white as snow.
So, here we are, stripped bare and standing in the middle of Lent. And we have a choice. Do we move forward into whatever this year has for us, into whatever God has planned for us? Or do we keep looking back at our pasts, circling back to our mistakes, playing the tape of our failures and our faults over and over again?
Let’s move forward, friend. Let’s trust that when Jesus said, “It is finished,” He really meant it! Let’s believe that He no longer brings to mind our mistakes, that He’s removed our sin and washed us clean. Let’s quit beating ourselves up for a past that only we remember.
We don’t even need a time machine to do it. We simply need to accept Christ’s forgiveness and step forward into our future.
Dear God, Why is it so hard to let go of the past? I believe You when You say I’m forgiven, and yet I can’t stop regretting the things that have happened, the things I’ve done. But I want to. I want to live in freedom from both sin and shame, and I know You can help me do that. Please help me! Help me truly and fully accept Your forgiveness and move forward. Please open my eyes to the good works You still have prepared for me and protect me from shame and the lies of the enemy. Thank You, Lord. Thank You for refusing to “beat me up” over a history that You’ve paid for and that you now no longer remember. I love You. Amen.
Excerpt from Journey to the Cross: Forty Days to Prepare Your Heart for Easter by Mary Carver.
Join us each Sunday during the season of Lent as we share an excerpt from Journey to the Cross: Forty Days to Prepare Your Heart for Easter by Mary Carver and sign up for a FREE sampler to read as you continue towards Easter! Journey to the Cross was written with women of all stages in mind so that we could all better experience the power and wonder of the journey to resurrection with intentionality and depth.
Easter isn’t just about one Sunday; it’s about the road He took all the way to the cross. Easter is worth getting ready for. Let’s start preparing our hearts with Journey to the Cross.
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