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Leaving the past behind

Bringing a spiritual perspective to daily life

April 10, 2002



In order to learn to walk, babies leave crawling behind. When a young eagle is finally willing to fly, he stops hopping all over the tree branches. For people to give up drinking, they have to find better things to do with themselves. When people recommit to their marriages, they stop flirting with people in the office.

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Going forward in life has much to do with leaving behind old habits of thought and action. It's a natural part of God's blessing in our lives to help us move out of ways of doing and thinking that have become too small for us.

But is it possible to forget the past completely? Would we want to forget the good things that have happened? How can we forget the anguish of disappointments and failure?

One of the Bible's greatest but most humble men wrote these words to his fellow Christians: "Brethren, I count not myself to have apprehended: but this one thing I do, forgetting those things which are behind, and reaching forth unto those things which are before ..." (Phil. 3:13).

One way to forget the past is to be confident that today's good will be as satisfying as yesterday's good. When great good has come into our lives, it's easy to slip into thinking that when that chapter seems finished we are somehow "over the hill." In order to rekindle hope, we need to acknowledge God as the source of the goodness. We can expect the ongoing love of God to show itself in new opportunities, relationships, and talents.

This has much to do with resolving the disappointments of the past. No matter how ugly, hateful, or remorse-filled our past may seem, we have a recourse. In the quiet sanctuary of prayer, we can admit that the evil that seems so hypnotic cannot displace the reality of God's presence in our lives. The omnipotence of God's love insists on making itself known in tangible, hope-inspiring, and life-changing ways. Renewal and restoration are natural consequences of God's benevolent government of creation.

A foundational statement in the Christian Science textbook helps break mental repetitions. Mary Baker Eddy wrote, "Life is divine Mind" ("Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures," pg. 469).

God is the origin of life, and God as Mind is the source of all conscious thought. Our thoughts can be increasingly aligned with God's goodness, power, and love. Being incapacitated by the past suggests that we can't find the inspiration we need to live in the present.

But one of God's great blessings is the daily communication of His love through inspiration that is health-giving and joy-inspiring and that makes us more productive and useful. Our daily prayer consecrates us to hearing those messages. As we strive to live in accord with those inspirations, preoccupation with the past yields to engagement with today's good and opportunity to serve.

One of the most difficult things I had to overcome from my past was painful memories of my childhood. For many years I held on to resentment toward my mother. Then I lived with remorse as I saw how destructive my feelings were. My prayer made me willing to make an effort to see her and to pray about the difficulties of being with her. Gradually, we found ways to laugh together. The needed forgiveness came, and now we have the most wonderfully supportive friendship. Being with her now is relaxed and easy.

There are lots of relationships that I haven't redeemed, but I have to trust that God is speaking, and leading every one of His children. That includes both the people who have been closest to me and those who have been most agitating. It's egotism that causes us to use ourselves as the reference point for thinking about others. The more we see God as the point of contact for His children, just as the rays of light find their source in the sun, we won't hold others to positions they've outgrown.

The lessons of the past are best learned not by dwelling in the past, but by committing ourselves to the present. Today's inspiration will not only make us happier and more useful now; it will reassure us that the fullness of God's love restores what the past seemed to take away.

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