I’m involved in a lot of discussion circles about how we can make things better. Most often the conversations center on the three main pillars of society: community, church, and family. As you drill down in these conversations and attempt to get to the core of how to improve upon these things, it quickly becomes clear that any steps towards betterment must begin with the individuals who make up these pillars. I briefly mentioned this idea in last week’s message.
If you spend any length of time speaking with someone about their future, you will notice that much of the conversation will actually begin to reflect the past. I don’t think this is intentional, but we have a propensity to live much of our lives there – in the past that is. We measure things against it, relive it, remember it; we want it back, we don’t want it back, we want only parts of it back, and so on. Except for the exact moment you are in now, the past has made up the entirety of your life, so I understand why we fixate on it, but it can be a major detriment if you are trying to move forward.
No matter our age, there are times in our past that have been defining moments – some victorious and others not so much. It’s the “not so much” ones that we’re going to focus on for now. Part of our growth experience involves mistakes, both made by ourselves or someone else against us. The challenge for you and me is what to do with these mistakes when attempting to move forward. Do they stay or do they go? The answer is actually both, and this is one key area in which a relationship with God can really shine.
You will never hear me tell a person to “forgive and forget.” Why? Because it’s impossible and it puts unrealistic pressure on the person you’re telling it to. Our brain is created to remember, and often times the mistakes we make can leave the most searing impressions. This innate ability to remember is why our future successes are marred and compromised before we even get started working on them. Some get paralyzed at the thought of trying new things because they fear making the same past mistakes. In order to move on, it’s true that forgiveness must be the starting place, but forgetting is not the ending place, at least for us. Forgiving ourselves and others begins the process of no longer letting mistakes define who we are and what our future holds. If true forgiveness has taken place, over time the memory of that mistake will have less of a grip on your life.
Forgiving is only half the equation however. It’s the part that you and I are responsible for and is the only part that is within our capability. It is absolutely true that God also forgives us when we ask. The price of this was Christ on the cross which we can never take for granted. God wasn’t done though; His ways are not our ways (Isaiah 55:8-9), and part of the new relationship He formed with you and me in that moment was to forget our mistakes as well.
“‘The time is coming,’ declares the Lord, ‘when I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel and with the house of Judah. It will not be like the covenant I made with their forefathers when I took them by the hand to lead them out of Egypt, because they broke my covenant, though I was a husband to them,’ declares the Lord. ‘This is the covenant I will make with the house of Israel after that time,’ declares the Lord. ‘I will put my law in their minds and write it on their hearts. I will be their God, and they will be my people. No longer will a man teach his neighbor or a man his brother, saying, “Know the Lord,” because they will all know me, from the least of them to the greatest,’ declares the Lord. ‘For I will forgive their wickedness and will remember their sins no more.’” Jeremiah 31:31-34
Let the words “remember their sins no more” sink in for just a moment.
As you watch a message, or any video for that matter, what you are not seeing are all the mistakes that have been edited out. It appears as a seamless flow, but in reality it was a bit rougher the first time around. It’s the same with God. As He looks upon our lives and encourages us to move forward into new, bold, and courageous things, His gaze passes through Jesus first, before it falls on us. As this happens, the mistakes that we so often hold against ourselves are edited out. What remains is a perfect finished masterpiece that pleases God. As hard as it may be for us to comprehend – He has willingly forgotten.
I’m not going to pretend that I know exactly how God does this. It is especially hard to comprehend, because we don’t have the same ability built into us. I do have an opinion as to why He does it though. God told the prophet Isaiah something very similar to what He told Jeremiah, with one additional piece of information:
“I, even I, am he who blots out your transgressions, for my own sake, and remembers your sins no more.” Isaiah 43:25
Did you catch it? God forgets our sins for His own sake. He realizes that if He is to be in relationship and friendship with someone, He cannot be looking at them through a tainted lens. It would negatively color every interaction between us if He did! God’s heart is to let every ounce of our beauty loose, unrestrained from the tar of the past. Unlocked and carving new territory in our lives is where He wants us, and He wants to be free of any negative thought towards us that could potentially get in the way. Imagine if we adopted the same mindset as we enter relationship with other people – holding nothing against them!
I admit, I’ve made plenty of mistakes in my past, but I’ve learned to let God edit my script. If I forgive myself and others and truly concentrate on the fact that God doesn’t see me for my mistakes, the days ahead are guaranteed to outshine the ones behind.