I wish I were the kind of person who had lived life according to God’s best plan for me, but my free will got in the way so many times, leaving me with a series of regrets that rear their ugly head with hair-trigger consistency. I read the words that Paul wrote in Phillipians 3:13-14…”But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus.” And yet, I find myself constantly looking in my rearview mirror, working through the things I should have done, wondering how different things would be if I had.
I judge the paths I took and the decisions I made with the critical eye of a prosecutor determined to win the case, indicting myself, convict ring, and executing all at once. I run through my parenting mistakes with the skill of a DA. I was too lenient, too strict; spoiled them too much, or deprived them of what they needed; I was naive, I was suspicious, I let them have too much freedom, I didn’t give them enough. And then there’s my divorce, and my writing, and the people I’ve offended or hurt, or those I failed to validate or acknowledge…
I wake up nights and file through these things in my mind, asking God how He could ever forgive me for any of them, when compared to so many good people I know, I’m such a wretch. How can God use a loser like me? How can He count on my lazy, slow-learning spirit?
The apostle Peter learned the lesson of looking forward, not backward. After the Passover meal that we often call Christ’s Last Supper, Jesus looked at Peter. “Simon, Simon,” He said, “behold, Satan has demanded permission to sift you like wheat; but I have prayed for you, that your faith may not fail; and you, once you have turned again, strengthen your brothers.” (Luke 22: 31-32)
Peter didn’t know that in just a few hours, he would betray Christ three times. But Jesus knew. And don’t you know that Jesus’ words played through his mind over and over for the rest of his life? Jesus had told him-before the betrayal-that he would mess up, but when he repented, it would be time to move on and fulfill his calling. Jesus didn’t say, “Peter, you are going to really blow it in a few hours from now. You’re going to turn tail and run, and then you’re going to lie through your teeth about even knowing me. And it’s a shame because you had a lot of potential, but you’ll be of no use to me then.” Instead, He anticipated Peter’s sincere repentance and reminded him that his calling would still be there when he came back. And for two thousand years, Peter has strengthened his brothers through his writings in the New Testament, and reminded us that you can’t move forward if you’re always looking back.
I realize that God is in control of the universe, that the mistakes in my past, while dramatic to me, did not ruin God’s plan beyond repair. God is sovereign, and His plans cannot be thwarted by someone like me. He can fill in the blanks of my mistakes, teaching my children what I failed to teach, restoring what I destroyed, rebuilding what I tore down, redeeming what I sold away.
And He tells me to stop looking back, to press on toward the prize…He knew my mistakes before I ever made them, yet He still planned to use me anyway. He didn’t see me as the The Great Loser, but as someone uniquely gifted with something to be used in His kingdom work. Where I see myself as a disappointment, He sees me as an asset. He already knows the fruit I will bear for Him, and my future is on His mind so much more than my past.
If He can see that way, why wouldn’t I want to press on toward the goal, and wave good-bye to my fragmented, imperfect past? The future is so much brighter in Christ, and I have so many sisters and brothers who need strengthening.
Thank You , Lord. for seeing my potential instead of my past.
This is an excerpt from a book by Terry Blackstock
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