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. – Philippians 3:13-14
This summer, I have spent more time working on flowers in my yard than ever before. In years gone by, my attempts at landscaping were feeble at best. I have a set of perennials in my back yard for a reason – they come back every year and I don’t have too much work to do with them. Maybe if I was feeling botanic, I might be convinced to plant a few annuals around a light post in the yard, but that’s it. But like many others who take this approach to gardening, I have discovered a simple truth. Just because the plants come back year after year doesn’t mean that they are totally care-free. The plants need pruning, watering, fertilizing, and sometimes transplanting in order to keep growing healthily. Insects and pests discover plants and use them for homes and for food. And finally, the weeds tend to find a way to return no matter how many methods you use to control them. None of this comes as a surprise to those people who dislike gardening – instead it serves as a catalyst for astro-turfing the entire yard. But to be fair, this doesn’t surprise a green-thumb either. Ask them and they’ll tell you that keeping your plants looking beautiful requires a solid memory of what’s worked and failed in the past and a level of diligence in keeping up on the daily needs of the garden.
Some of you seeing the connection to the passage from Philippians 3 may already see a contradiction coming here. You’ve recognized the connection between pruning and weeding our sins from the past but you’re wondering about the memory. How can we truly forget the past if our pasts can give us good information about what may come in the future? My feelings on this are simple and equally contradictory…
Forgetting what is behind is a dangerous thing when done irresponsibly. Many Christians will live lives where they simply overlook bad decisions and the consequences of those decisions in the name of forgetting what had been. It’s easy to say: “Wow, that wasn’t what I wanted. It wasn’t good for me. Clearly God didn’t want this (job, person, opportunity, event, responsibility) in my life so the best course of action for me is to just cut it loose and never think about it again. If you’re pulling a weed (sin) or controlling a pest (bad influences) then that is the way to go. But what if you’re pruning back the plant (brothers and sisters in Christ)? It’s good to cut back the plant to stimulate new growth, but cutting too much can lead to damage that will take years to heal, or make the plant more susceptible to attack. I’m not proposing that we live our lives with our eyes locked behind us, but we cannot use God’s grace as a free pass for bad behavior or to justify dealing with the consequences of the decisions we’ve made in life. So you see, we aren’t required to keep the weeds and feed the bunnies with our gardens, but when God shows us places to weed and prune, we must do the work based on what’s best for everyone involved, not to just do what makes us feel better at the time.
When facing past weeds in the garden, seek first the help and guidance of the Lord. As the creator of all things, He knows you, your situation, and what you will need to restore the garden of your life. His directions may sound odd. They may even force you to do things that are difficult or unpleasant. But ultimately, He knows what is best and through the blood of Christ and the strength of the Spirit, He will restore you lead you in the way that you need to go – past, present, and into our eternal future.