Memories; those moments in our past that we hold onto or can easily recall. We all have memories from our past. As we travel on this journey of life, many memories are created along the way.
We like to create good memories as often as possible. In fact, we intentionally attempt to create good memories: we plan a fun trip or event, take lots of pictures where everyone is smiling and having fun, and we share those pictures with others in various ways as a way to retell the fun memory we created. And as long as the trip or event goes relatively according to plan, our mission of creating a good memory is accomplished.
I have many fond memories of my past. There are pictures saved on my computer and phone of some of those memories, and it’s always nice to think of these fun times when something happens that reminds me of that memories.
However, the truth about memories is that they aren’t always good. We like the good memories and do what we can to think about them often. Yet the reality is that we also have not so good memories from our past as well. As we travel on this journey of life, many memories are created along the way…good and bad.
The hardest part about bad memories is not that we have them, but rather that it becomes very easy to dwell on them and allow them to effect us in the present. If we aren’t careful, bad memories can start to overwhelm us and become more prominent in our minds than our good memories. And when that begins to happen, it becomes easy to allow those bad memories to get us down in the moment as well as hold us back from moving forward into the future. We start to allow our journey through this life to be effected in negative ways because of the memories created in the past that were not happy.
No one wants that to happen to them. It is not like someone has the life goal of their past haunting and effecting their present and future. But it can still happen. We don’t mean to let it happen, but it can start to feel like the bad memories are too strong to overcome.
Now, there are times on our journey through this life where it can be a good thing to stop, pause, and take time to think about and work through bad memories. It’s healthy to work through things that have influenced us in negative ways. Trying to move forward while ignoring painful times in our past is not good for us, so taking time to slow down or stop and deal with things is, at times, the best thing to do.
But at the same time, we must be careful not to begin to allow the past to negatively affect our future. We do need to work through things when it’s necessary to do so, but the ultimate goal of doing that should be to learn and grow from our past experiences in order to help us as we continue on our journey.
This is something I’ve been working through in my own personal life for a while now. My journey took a very unexpected and extremely painful turn a while back, and the bad memories have definitely been overwhelming. There have been times where the bad memories were all I could think about, even when I tried not to. I went through periods of time where I didn’t want to do anything, go anywhere, or be around anyone (and if you know me, you know that I’m an extreme extrovert, so that is very opposite of my personality).
I definitely needed to take time to slow down and stop in order work through all that had happened…that was the healthy and smart thing for me to do. At some point though, I also needed to get to a place where I could begin to move into the future again. But to be honest, the idea of moving forward scared me.
It scared me because I knew that whatever my future held, wherever the journey led me next, it was going to be completely different from how I had ever imagined my future looking. I’ve never been one to be afraid of change or trying new things, but this was different. It involved changes and new things that I had never wanted. My life, every single aspect of it, would never look the same as it had before, and that’s scary to me.
Recently I was watching Transformers (yes, I am a nerd that likes those kind of movies). In that movie was a line that just hit me like a ton of bricks. It’s a line I already knew, but it hit me differently this time. I love how God uses all kind of different avenues to speak to us…and for me, he was using a line from this movie to speak to me at this particular moment in my life. A clip of the line is below. It takes place during a part of the movie when the 2 main characters are faced with a choice. Their lives, because of what they had discovered, were never going to be the same, and they had a choice as to how they would respond…
“50 years from now when you’re looking back at your life, don’t you want to be able to say you had the guts to get in the car.” Great line, great truth.
If I continued to let the past affect me in a negative way, and continued to be afraid of the differences in the future, what would I be potentially missing out on? Some day when my journey is coming to an end, don’t I want to be able to look back at my life and be glad that I had the guts to move forward into the future, even though it is full of unknowns?
And then this morning I read these verses…
“…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.” (Philippians 3:13-14)
Boom, God hits me again. ‘Forgetting what lies behind and straining forward’, what a perfect description of the journey of life. Here Paul is remind us that our ultimate focus needs to be on the future and God’s calling in our life. God doesn’t call us to stay forever in the difficult moments of our past. He uses those moments to build our faith and get us to trust more in him, but he wants us to keep moving forward in our life, continually seeking to live for him.
Life is full of good memories and bad memories. And sometimes, we’ll never be able to put to rest those bad memories or fully understand why they happened. But we can’t let the past keep us from our future.
May we continue to work to forget what lies behind and strain forward to what lies ahead. May we have the guts to move forward into our future, no matter what unknowns lie ahead. May we allow the past to be what strengthens us for our future. And may we continue to seek to live for God in this life, no matter the detours that our journey may take.