We are having lots of conversations in our church about what it means to move forward in our present circumstances.
Things change day by day, and our lives do not look the same as they did yesterday, let alone years ago. The back and forth of pushing forward while at the same time memories are pulling us backward is disconcerting. There's been a lot to experience and learn lately. How do we learn from the past without fearing the future?
We not only have the hard stuff brought by COVID19, but here in Texas we also had a hard freeze in March that flooded many homes and destroyed buildings. Our entire Frisco First children's ministry area and gym was flooded and pipes busted through the walls. Some of our staff relocated to other offices and children's ministry looked very different for a while. In a weirdly time-warpish way it feels as if the flooding transpired a decade ago, but it's only been six months. Still, lessons were learned, hard times were had by all, and we made it through the South Building flood of 2021.
Time is measured differently during moments of trauma or difficulty. Days seem to drag on forever, but then suddenly things are a little better and we look back and think, "Wait, did that really just happen?"
For those living with long-lasting ramifications of trauma, we may see reminders of a time before tragedy. Memories of a loved one, or a home that is no longer standing. Significant changes in our circumstances push us forward, but at times reminders of the past yank us backward. Getting caught in the constant waves of back and forth is exhausting and sometimes paralyzing.
In Philippians 3, Paul talks about walking with Christ in a way that shares in his sufferings. Paul wants to know his Savior and the power of the resurrection so well, that if it means dying to himself he is willing. Putting himself in Christ's position in order to make the resurrection his own, Paul says, takes an intentional desire to press forward as a new creation.
In Philippians 3:12-16 Paul writes the following, "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. Let those of us who are mature think this way, and if in anything you think otherwise, God will reveal that also to you. Only let us hold true to what we have attained."
I love how Paul leaves no room to waiver in his mission to press forward. He even has a shoutout to mature Christians when in the next sentence he says mature believers ought to think this way as well, but if any of you believe in a way not reflecting a mature believer, "God will reveal that also to you." GOD will reveal that to you - not your friend, not your Pastor or celebrities, not your spouse or your child - GOD. Now, God may use others such as friends and Pastors to illuminate things in your mind, that is the power of the body of Christ, but be assured your Creator will let you know if you are needing to rethink a belief or situation.
Moving forward means straining for what lies ahead. Reaching for it in a way that will cause us to work hard. This is not for the faint of heart. This requires us to not only push toward what God has for our futures, but to also FORGET what lies BEHIND. This can hurt, but it is also freeing. Paul is saying it is not only okay to forget, to relieve ourselves of the burden of our past, but it is the act of a mature believer to do so. Wow - those of us with really good memories are slightly hyperventilating right now.
But - there is nothing wrong with memories, God created us and gave us Biblical history so we REMEMBER who He is and thus who we are. God commands his people in Deuteronomy 11:19 to teach His commandments to their children; talking about His words when at home, when walking along the road, when lying down and when rising in the morning. However, there was a purpose behind God's directive. Refection and study done with the purpose of straining toward the land God prepared for his people, while at the same time learning from their past so as not to repeat their same horrific mistakes. All the learning, all the meditation, all in the name of seeking fulfillment of God's plan, not their own.
Paul is saying forget the past, because it is a burden. Mature believers understand how freeing the act of forgetting while meditating on truth is, and how liberating. And what one realizes in the process is how pressing forward means straining towards the "upward call to God in Christ Jesus." The world around us will swirl and turn and cause whip lash, but the call on our hearts is the same through the trends, tribulations, and traditions that come and go.
We are called to press onward. Always. This may look different from time to time. For example - when our community is asking us to stay home in-order to care for our neighbor because we may give each other a deadly disease. Sometimes part of living well in community is following hard directions like a lockdown out of kindness for others. However, these are temporary and seasonal expectations. Moving forward means we simply cannot stay locked down forever.
Stop for a time, learn from the past, move forward and strain for the future. Humans are amazingly resilient because God made us that way, but we are not omnipotent. Whether we like it or not our time on earth is limited. Let's live our time well!
So, what does moving forward right at this moment look like for you? Are you spending time with the Lord as much as possible, increasing in Biblical literacy and sharing what you are learning with others? Here at Noisy Narratives we are praying for our readers, listeners and church, that we all push joyfully toward the future God has in store for us knowing the prize is the "upward call of God in Christ Jesus."
Today on our podcast we talk about "Trends and Truth". This is the first installment of a monthly roundtable where we discuss ongoing trends and measure them against the truth of the gospel. We aren't always right, in fact we are often wrong, because as Paul says, "Not that I have already obtained this or am already perfect..." But there is joy in the journey and in the pressing onward as we push towards the future God has for us.
**Note: Fair warning - we poke fun at ourselves as we work through the ins and outs of navigating culture as believers. You may want to get your grace tank filled before you listen - 'cause there is a significant possibility you won't agree with everything said in our discussion. You have been warned.