Memory is so precious. In our academic achievements – it is rewarded, at the dawn of our lives – the lack of it is decried. And at any stage of life, forgetting causes us to feel often frustrated….
Recently there was an interesting article in the observer celebration Joshua Foer’s new book in praise of memory and its power – http://www.guardian.co.uk/science/2011/mar/13/memory-techniques-joshua-foer.
At the other end of the spectrum, remembering things might not be all that good. In the unique case of Jill Price, 42, who suffers from hyperthymestic syndrome – she can remember everything since she was 14. “Some memories are good and give me a warm, safe feeling. But I also recall every bad decision, insult and excruciating embarrassment. Over the years it has eaten me up. It has kind of paralysed me… Most have called it a gift. But I call it a burden. I run my entire life through my head every day and it drives me crazy!”
When the apostle Paul talks about spiritual progress – he uses the analogy of a race: “Not that I have already obtained all this, or have already arrived at my goal, but I press on to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of me. 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 for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus.”
So for him, moving on means forgetting. I guess Paul needed to forget the failures of the past. Maybe the years spent in what turned out to be a religious detour. Maybe he could have been haunted by the nightmares of Stephen’s execution. Maybe what kept him up at night were the troubles in the newly formed congregations or the lack of progress in Gospel proclamation. Whatever those ‘skeletons’ were – they were out and buried in God’s grace.
He also needed to forget the achievements of the past. His scholarly pedigree and the righteousness of his character were shadowy traces of what real success was all about. He learned not to care about them – as much as they would have been a real badge of honour for any leader… It was the only way he could really move on with the mission of his Master.
There’s something for us in all this. We are smart to learn from Paul about moving on. And forgetting is essential. Don’t let your past mistakes, sins and hang-ups keep you imprisoned on the side-lines. Repent and let the grace of Calvary push you on. Don’t let your past achievements lull you into a false sense of progress. Yesterday’s race is history – the race is still ahead of you, today! The finishing line is ahead of you – not behind… So wherever you are and whatever you do, forget, and move on!