I am sure you have heard it before, or better yet, maybe even said it, “That’s all water under the bridge.” I want to deviate from the topic for this year and speak about the profound power of the past. It has been said, “if you wish to live in the present, you have to work through your past.” The word “past” is compelling; most of the time, we understand it to be something distant. The sentence you just read is history, the past, buried within the recesses of your mind for possible use in the future. Okay, I don’t want to get all philosophical on you. My point is simple, what happened in the past, whether years ago or just a minute ago, can impact us whether we realize it or not.
Brethren, I do not count myself to have apprehended; but one thing I do, forgetting
those things which are behind and reaching forward to those things which are ahead…
In this verse from the apostle Paul, two words stand out that gives some insight into how one might work through their past so that they can live in the present and be excited about the future. First, there is this idea of forgetting. The ETRV says, “I forget the things that are past.” Water under the bridge…right? The word means the sense of neglecting, no longer caring. Pat Harrell gives us insight by explaining the opposite of forgetting, “To remember something was to lift it out of the dead past and to thereby make it a dynamic force in the present.” In his book entitled, Learning to Love, Willard Tate talks about something called self-talk. He writes, “Whatever the mind attends to, it considers; whatever the mind does not attend to, it dismisses; whatever the mind attends to continually, believes; and whatever the mind believes, it eventually does.” The NKJV of Proverbs 23:7 says, “For as he thinks in his heart, so is he.” Paul’s history cluttered with the arrogance of a law keeper (Philippians 3:3-6), perpetrated horrible acts against the early church (Acts 7 & 8). What sort of self-talk could he have used to remind himself of the dreadful things he did. What kind of self-talk do you use?
What is interesting about the Greek word translated forgetting is that it is a present participle; which means, forgetting is a process. What can help us in that process is found in the next word I want to consider; that is, reaching. This word carries with it the idea of to stretch out to or towards. Listen to the ETRV, “I try as hard as I can to reach the goal that is before me.” God is revealing to us through Paul that this forgetting and reaching takes concerted effort and time. Pat Harrell makes this powerful comment on this, “Paul was in effect, refusing to permit the past to dominate the present. Forgetting the past, he orientates himself to the future.” With what was Paul occupying his mind? What was he reaching so hard to attain? “I press toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus” (Philippians 3:14).
With Paul’s past littered with sufficient reasons to suffocate his newfound life (and hope) in Christ, you can imagine what his self-talk could have been? But he refused to be held captive to that past. It was water under the bridge. What do you reach for most often when it comes to identifying yourself? What thoughts echo through the recesses of your mind? Have the turbulent waters of your past made it under the bridge?
Heavenly Father, we thank You for your patience with us as we strive towards one day being with You. Help us, empower us to forget the past that seeks to keep us in bondage and release us to be all that we can be for You. Amen.