Have you ever had your own memory work against you? I don’t mean in the way that you forgot an important appointment or the name of someone – but in a way that drags you away from the future? In recent times, I have been pondering the future and learning the power of forgetfulness as a strategy for stepping into the future. I realise it goes against most of our mantras from ‘lest we forget’ to the reminder messages we are sent by medical professionals or Facebook events that repeat in chorus, ‘don’t forget!’. Remembering is an admired trait and while I agree we need to remember history to learn, grow and improve, I also have discovered that remembering some things can also hamstring our faith, courage and resilience.
The future beckons; it calls and whispers to us. It is laced with promise, loaded with a curious mix of hope and risk and always has this pesky gap between where you presently are and where you desire to be. There’s never a clearly marked map – well actually there’s no map! It’s just that kind of an adventure. The future also requires you to travel lightly to be able to make it to where you need to be. There is definitely a baggage limit for your heart to cross the gap and make it there. Part of the preparation I am learning is learned and purposed forgetfulness. Check out what Isaiah proclaims to help the Israelites into their future:
“Forget the things that happened in the past.
Do not keep on thinking about them.
I am about to do something new.
It is beginning to happen even now.
Don’t you see it coming?
I am going to make a way for you to go through the desert.
I will make streams of water in the dry and empty land.”
The Israelites had failed to step into God’s promises many times. They’d choose to trust in everything from a golden calf they’d made themselves to deals made with enemy countries. Their past was riddled with failed attempts and now they find themselves in a situation that sounds all too familiar and brings back all the feels of failing. I bet they could see, taste and even smell the memories etched into their souls of times past where they thought things would go one way and they went another. I wonder how often they played it back in their minds the events that lead them to continually being captive. The past when it contains failing makes forgetting that much harder – especially when the future and the promise involves succeeding in that exact same area.
I love that God’s precursor to the promise of the new thing comes with a practical strategy. A strategy to forget! I think so often we sense or even know that God is calling us into a new season, but we hinder ourselves by continually thinking on the wounds of the past. As we ‘keep on thinking about them’, we re-live them, re-experience them and they are corrosive to the promise that stands in front of us. Our thinking on the past when the past is not something we enjoyed drags it from its rightful place behind us, to an obstacle in front of us that taunts us with discouragement. It makes links between your present and past with a smirk on its face questioning, ‘how’d this go last time you tried it?’ If that doesn’t get you, then its follow up line of ‘nothing’s changed’ makes for its classic one-two-punch.
The apostle Paul also recognised and knew the power of forgetting the past – and he was a man with a past he was not proud of!
Brothers and sisters, I do not consider myself yet to have taken hold of it. 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 of God’s heavenly calling in Christ Jesus. (Phil 3:13-14)
Again, the strategy repeats, a necessary forgetting of all that was behind and a straining and a pressing on toward the future. A future-focused-forgetfulness. I love Paul’s confidence too, that his future of fulfilling his calling was likened to winning a prize. Our futures and the new things God is doing in our lives should be a source of inspiration and hope to us, but I have found the past can be the grim reaper if allowed to step in front of us. The annoying part about this is that it is only us that allow it that permission and its our thoughts that promote them to a place they were never intended to be. We really need to take every thought captive and make it obedient to the will of God, that is the keeper of our future and our prize.
The future doesn’t just roll in when its loaded with promise. It’s naïve to think the enemy would allow it to unfold effortlessly and for you just to walk into it like a pre-prepared stage set. To step into all that is in front of us there is a process and the process is to forget and focus. Forget the failed attempts and disappointments of the past. It’s to throw off the things that hinder so you can travel lightly, so you can run. Fear will come. Memories and failures past will be thrown up on the projector screen of your mind at random moments. There is only one who is able to fully forget and though we are made in His image, we need to get better at this skill with His help.
The past can be a weapon used against you that keeps trying to get in front of you instead of stay behind. It is an act of will and a choice, to forget. To dismiss when memories are triggered, to pray when current similarities taunt and to declare that which has been promised. We focus on all that lays ahead, straining toward it and just simply… forget the rest!