Almost daily my phone prompts me to review my photos from ‘this day x years ago’. For me, the opportunity to recall moments from the past feels intensely bittersweet, and will often provoke a wistful smile… or a sigh… or a tear. While the memories are deeply precious, they can trigger a cascade of conflicting emotions, and dwelling too long on what has now gone can easily draw me to a place of unhealthy melancholy.
I think perhaps the Spirit is wanting to help me to face forwards.
Not with any sort of stiff-upper-lip bravado that chooses to simply ignore anything raw and painful from past. Or the present. The Helper does not lead me in paths of pretence and emotional denial – except perhaps self-denial.
But first I have to find a place of rest in very consciously entrusting my past to my Father. For I could not bear for any of these moments and memories to be forever lost. I find comfort in knowing that a record of everything is held (Daniel 7:10, Rev 20:12), and that not one sparrow is forgotten by God (Lk 12:6).
I believe that one day, from the security of the Father’s love, I will be able to review with full perspective all that has formed a precious part of my life. I will not need to rely on the limited cloud backup of my photos. But not yet.
Facing forwards is not simply attempting to maintain a stubbornly sunny disposition, insisting that somehow, and despite all evidence to the contrary, everything will work out just fine tomorrow, or next month.
Everything will ultimately and truly work out well, but not necessarily tomorrow, or next month. Or – and this is so desperately hard – even in this age.
Of Jesus I read:
“Because of the joy awaiting him, he endured the cross, disregarding its shame. Now he is seated in the place of honour beside God’s throne.” (Heb 12:2)
Paul takes a similar view:
“Forgetting the things that are behind and reaching out for the things that are ahead, with this goal in mind, I strive toward the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.” (Phil 3:13-14)
It is no mere escapism to choose to look towards this future; to hunger for it; to pray for it; and to work for it. As John Mark Comer comments: “Jesus will bring forward good from the age to come into the pain and suffering of this present age. While it’s only a taste of what’s coming, it’s still a gift.”
Master, I long to taste more of this gift. But whether or not I do, give me peace to trust you with my past and courage to allow you to turn me to face forwards.