Someone said, "you can't go forward while looking backwards.” In his letter to the saints in Philippi, Paul, while acknowledging that he has not yet accomplished his goals in serving the Lord, he is not held back by past failures or even past successes. He only desires to move ahead confidently, deliberately, and consistently "towards the goal of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus" (3:13-14).
We all have a past, with memories both good and bad. For many, the bad memories are easier to remember than are the good ones. For these people, past defeats hinder their ability to gain present and future victories. Others prefer to dwell on former conquests, while avoiding present spiritual conflict. These will go to church, listen to tapes, buy books, but they will not engage others in the work of ministry. In addition to these issues, there is the problem of others who cannot allow you to mature, to change. Whatever you were when they dealt with you, is, in their mind, what you are now, regardless of what your current circumstances are. Perhaps this makes things easier for them. By keeping you frozen in time, they do not have to take the time to get to know you, to listen to you, to look past your face to discern your heart.
This is frustrating, even disappointing. One can be tempted to turn aside from the pursuit of the things that lie ahead of you, wasting time attempting to convince detractors that you have outgrown their snapshot of you. While sometimes you can win that argument, it still takes time that would have been better spent enjoying how much you have grown. I recently ran into an acquaintance who accused me of a fault based upon previous experiences. Unfortunately, those experiences were nearly two decades old. For this person, I was still the 28 year old that perhaps would have been guilty of what she accused me. In fact, I was innocent of anything pertaining to the issue. It took me ten minutes even to attempt to make my case, so certain was she of my guilt.
Sometimes it seems easier to make new friends than it does to repair damages to old relationships. Could this lay behind many divorces and broken parent/child relationships? I believe that a good friend is hard to find, and should be nurtured and developed rather than discarded. Not every acquaintance qualifies for this degree of support, for not everyone who knows your name knows you. As a result, I understand that forgiveness is also precious; I cannot presume upon anyone's capacity to forgive. Forgiveness is an aspect of grace; I cannot withhold grace from others, nor can I presume that others will give it. I can, however, rejoice in the opportunities God grants me to allow Him to be gracious through me, and receive the grace that He sends at the point of my need.
If we are like trees, then forgiveness is like the water than allows us to grow to maturity and fruitfulness. I want you to be fruitful unto every good work; therefore, I need to keep a steady supply of water handy.
χάρις καὶ εἰρήνη