It was the fall of my senior year and I was driving my mom’s brand new Pontiac Grand Am and even though the color was more burgundy then red it was still a pretty sweet car.
I had driven to the old downtown library to study and was ready to head home. The library, on the outskirts of the capital, was a large towering building. Nestled between a busy one-way street and another building, parking was limited but still I’d found a spot in the little area behind it. I climbed into the Grand Am, put her in reverse, and started down the narrow one-way alley that provided an exit to the main road.
And, that’s when it happened.
I was three quarters of the way through the alley when the large, green, bookmobile turned the wrong way down the one-way alley and headed straight for me. I was 17 and still a very young driver – the older me wishes I had stood my ground and laid on that horn. But alas, it was not to be. The younger, less experienced (in life and driving) me put the car in reverse and began to back my way down the narrow and long alley. It seemed like an eternity, but was actually only minutes, before I had made my way (in reverse) down most of the alley. It appeared I was in the clear – and then it happened. I heard a loud scrape from the passenger side of the vehicle and felt ill and found myself crying all at the same time. I had to back the rest of the way out of the alley before I could survey the damage. It was bad. I had gotten too close to the guard-rail and done some significant damage to the front and rear passenger panels.
Fast forward to today. Our Pastor spoke about how we can let our past choices and mistakes can hold us back from what God wants us to do today. He reminded us that God’s desire is not to make us more comfortable but to shape us into the person He created us to be. The truth in this is that God is more concerned about our character than our happiness. And, then our Pastor said this:
“God did not create us to live in reverse.”
Friends, we chose what we focus on and our focus controls our direction. I don’t know about you, but sometimes I spend a lot of energy and attention looking backwards. I can get caught up in regretting past decisions and their consequences. I can get caught up believing that the things in the past are dictating my future. I can get caught up in feelings of guilt and shame and condemnation.
I can get caught up believing that my past not only defines me but also binds me.
Hear me friends. My Jesus, Your Jesus, OUR Jesus, came so that we might be set free.
My Jesus did not come so that I might be condemned but so that I might be transformed.
And so let’s start this transformation first by the renewing of our minds.
“Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will.”
What does it mean to be transformed and how do I get there? That’s what I want to know. How do I move forward?
“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,”
Fortunately, we don’t have to tackle this question on our own. But as we circle this issue we also need to remember that Jesus came into our lives so that we might be different, and changed people. He did not come to make us perfect people, nor did He come to make us successful or rich people.
He came to make us more like Him.
He came to make us servants.
He came to make us more loving.
He came to make us more grateful and gracious.
“You were taught, with regard to your former way of life, to put off your old self, which is being corrupted by its deceitful desires; to be made new in the attitude of your minds; and to put on the new self, created to be like God in true righteousness and holiness.”
The Apostle Paul was a man that had plenty of reason to look back. He had spent a period of his life persecuting the followers of Christ – his actions lead to the death of one day brothers and sisters. But that was not the end of his story. Our God transformed Paul despite his past. Paul would become one of the first missionaries, author of many books of the Bible, and legendary in his passion for making the case for Christ.
“Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come: The old has gone, the new is here!”
2 Corinthians 5:17
So friends, stop looking back, you were not made to live life in reverse. Be purposeful and intentional in moving forward. God has a plan and a dream for your life and you will not find it looking in your rear view mirror. Move forward and embrace the dream.