If we keep looking back, how can we move forward?

“I want to move forward, not backward in life
I don’t want to keep struggling with memories at night
I want to walk beside Jesus, not beside me
. . .”
A Journal Entry

I look in my car’s rearview mirror when I’m backing out of my 150-foot driveway. I’m getting pretty good at it. I’ve learned how to move swiftly and still avoid hitting the two trees which stand on either side of the entrance to the highway. I look in the rearview mirror because I want to go backward. When I reach the highway, I occasionally look in that mirror, but most of the time my eyes are focused on the road in front of me. I no longer want to move backward. I want to move forward.

It’s the same way in life. If we are stuck, we might initially need to look at our past life. Reflect on it. Evaluate how we’ve lived. What mirrors will accurately reflect Truth about ourselves? Our culture? Our Facebook likes and comments? Our family? Our conscience?

All of these mirrors can be helpful. They can also be inaccurate and destructive. Especially conscience. If it’s a condemning one. Self-analysis done through the mirror of introspection (isolated self-analysis) keeps us stuck in the past mire of regret. It prevents us from moving forward.

In my experience, regret has kept me from making changes. Why? Because it’s a self-focused activity in which I see only my errors. Thankfully, Jesus sees more than that! He doesn’t remind me of my errors. He reminds me of his forgiveness. His name for me is not “sinner”. It’s “saint!” Scripture declares that “long ago, even before he made the world, God chose us to be his very own through what Christ would do for us; he decided then to make us holy in his eyes, without a single fault—we who stand before him covered with his love” (Ephesians 1:4 TLB). 

When I look in the mirror of Scripture, through which his Spirit reflects truth, Jesus shows me my heart. He, alone, knows my heart. He, alone, speaks accurately about my past. He does so as I read Scripture and invite him to sit beside me and diagnose my condition.

Looking at my past condition can still be painful. Yet, I’ve found that doing it with Jesus beside me not only reduces pain but also inspires hope. He does not condemn me.

This year, my husband and I hope to celebrate some very significant events. We were married fifty-three years ago, the infant church God called us to is fifty-years-old, our oldest daughter is celebrating a milestone birthday, and our oldest grandchild is graduating from college. Sadly, I’ve been feeling anxious about these celebrations because I’ve been focused on my failures.

Last Sunday, I listened to these words of Scripture spoken by my husband: “Let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us,  looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith” (Hebrews 12:1).

I understood how destructive my constant looking back had become.

  • I made a decision to let go of the past and embrace the future.
  • To stop looking backward and instead, move forward.
  • To stop viewing myself through the mirror of introspection and see myself through the eyes of Jesus.
  • To stop beating myself up for past dysfunctional behavior and rest in his forgiving love.

This is my prayer and my focus for 2020.

 Lord, be my focal point all through the day.
 Instruct me and guide me; teach me your way.
 Lord, be my comforter all through the night.
 In every affliction, capture my sight.
 Let my eyes, always, behold your dear face
 That filled with joy, I may finish this race.
 Not with the pride of presumption, oh God
 Would I choose suffering and pain as my lot—
 Thinking I possibly merit could earn.
 Delight in dependence, Help me to learn.
 Faith in your goodness is all you require.
 Mercy, not sacrifice, is what you desire.
 Lord, not avoidance of trials will I seek, rather
 Peace that comes from a heart that is meek—
 From a heart submitted, joyful and true—
 One that finds pleasure in following you.
 Jane Ault

Some questions for you to consider

  • Do you think you reflect too little on your past? Or too much?
  • Have you invited Jesus to sit beside you as you reflect on your past?
  • If you haven’t done so, what is keeping you from doing it?

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