Some people are gifted writers. I think of people like C.S. Lewis and Eugene Peterson who write with such power and impact.
I think of my favorite author Donald Miller who writes in a way that just flows and is able to bring clarity to thoughts and truths that are generally hard to understand. If I’m being honest… I have to admit that I am jealous of them at times.
Writing never came easy to me or felt natural when I was in middle school and high school and even into college. Many were the times that I would turn in a draft of a paper that I had written only to get it back covered with suggestions and needed changes written in red ink. I’d then have to go back to my typewriter (yes this was prior to computers) and try again until I got it right. It was a frustrating and tedious process, but I look back at it now and realize just how beneficial it was to go through it. I look at it and realize that the purpose to looking at the errors and mistakes I had made wasn’t to bring to a place of feeling like a failure or to deflate me. The purpose was to help me to learn and to be refined and to grow.
I’m sure it is clear to most of you that one of my heroes in scripture is the Apostle Paul. Paul was a man who lived a very devoted life – both in his persecution of Christians and then in his devotion to Christ after his conversion experience. And he stayed devoted to his calling even in the face of such things as being shipwrecked, stoned, opposed and slandered and much more. And at one point, while imprisoned, he wrote a letter to the people of Philippi where he penned these words… he says…
“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, I press on toward the goal to win
the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus.” (Philippians 3:13-14, NIV)
Paul is talking about his journey toward realizing and experiencing the power of Christ in his life. And I really like this passage, because it shows how we might deal with the mistakes we’ve made in life as a way to grow and ultimately to look forward toward what is ahead as we strive or “strain” to “press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called” us! And the goal that he is calling us toward is one where we truly experience his power – the power that is found in his love and grace.
But too often we spend so much of our time in regret or shame over the mistakes we’ve made in our lives. Or we spend time feeling inadequate or incompetent and believe we have nothing significant to offer. And when we do this… we fail to realize the truth of what God wants for us, which is to grow and experience his love and grace in a way that empowers us to live with a sense of true security and freedom.
I don’t look back at my years of education and regret that I made so many mistakes and that it took me so many years to learn the things I’ve learned. I look back and am grateful for what I’ve learned and what I continue to learn.
A new year is always a time to reflect on the past and to attempt to make changes for the future. As we enter into 2018, we have an opportunity to re-center ourselves. We have to opportunity to put the past behind us and now strive toward “what is ahead.” And my prayer for us as a church is that we might truly make 2018 a year where we press on toward a greater experience of Christ in our own lives and toward living lives that reveal Christ to others. With God’s guidance, may we press on toward this goal!
Happy New Year!!!