“Do not call to mind the former things” (Isaiah 43:18)
I’m one of those people who likes to clean things out. My rule is that if I have not used something in two years or more, I don’t need it. Reid is the opposite. Not only does he not like to get rid of things (because you never know when you might need them); he enjoys buying old things. Mainly old books, especially old religious books. Thankfully, he has confined them to our basement, which is a maze of bookcases and bookshelves. I’m not kidding! Our basement looks like the Library of Congress. Nor am I joking when I tell you that he can smell a bookstore, a book sale, and especially an antiquarian bookstore from three miles away when he is driving. I have been with him on more than one occasion when he has turned the car 180 degrees on a dime because he saw a sign that had the word “book” in it. All I can do is hold on to the car door for dear life.
There are many things in our lives that need to be cleaned out. Especially things that are in our past. Sadly, we tend to collect past sins, past mistakes, past pains and rejections; and store them into our memory banks. We package them up in neat boxes and deposit them like souvenirs. Then, at the right time we unpack the boxes and allow them to weigh us down with guilt, shame, anger, and bitterness. Traveling down a toxic memory lane can cause us to become ineffective, anxious, and feeling locked in a prison we can’t get out of.
No, we can’t deny these things happened. They did happen. They are there in our past, but that is the point. They are in our past. The apostle Paul said, “I focus on this one thing: Forgetting the past and looking forward to what lies ahead.” (Philippians 3:13). The word for “forgetting” in the Greek means “to neglect.” When we neglect something, it doesn’t mean the memory of it is completely erased. It means that we choose not to give it our time and attention. We neglect it so that it doesn’t control our present, or our future. Paul said that he focused on what lies ahead. The good things God has for us down here, and the great things he has for us in heaven. The wise theologian, Clint Eastwood said, “there’s a reason the windshield is so large, and the rearview mirror is so small.” Wise words, for a cowboy.
So, my next lesson on our journey with Christ is this: Ignore all the toxic junk that is in your past. Don’t waste your time thinking about them. Don’t unpack any of those painful boxes that are stored in your memory. Don’t open them and examine the pictures. Don’t replay the negative words. Maybe you can’t get over those things in the past because you won’t let go of them.
Don’t miss the new things God wants to do in your life because you are still sloshing around in the old. When we ignore the past, we take it out of our hands and place it into Gods’. Meaning, we no long have dominion over it. We live knowing the past belongs to God to do with as he pleases. I have discovered that the more I ignore the past, the smaller that rearview mirror becomes. I also try to ignore all the old books that are in our basement – but they’re still there.