My thoughts today were prompted by Jeffery R. Holland's address The Best is Yet to Be. He speaks about life's transitions and about letting go of the past and looking faithfully to the future. He gives the example of the Apostle Paul who "after having reviewed the privileged and rewarding life of his early years—his birthright, education, and standing in the Jewish community" said "to the Philippians that all of that was “dung” compared to his conversion to Christianity" and that he has “stopped rhapsodizing about ‘the good old days’ and now eagerly look toward the future" that he "may apprehend that for which Christ apprehended me’” (Philippians 3:7–12). Of this looking anxiously to the future work the Lord has in store for him, Paul states:
“This one thing I do, forgetting those things which are behind, and reaching forth unto those things which are before,
“I press toward the mark for the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus” (Philippians 3:13–14).
It is a particular fault of mine "to yearn to go back to a world that cannot be lived in now, to be perennially dissatisfied with present circumstances" and "miss the here and now" like Elder Holland describes, and it is one I deeply regret. While thinking about it today, I can see many instances where I was too slow in discovering the joys of the situation I was in because I was too busy wishing things were the way they were or that they'd change and be "better" somehow. Many times the 'good 'old days' I long for are ones I didn't even realize and appreciate while I was living them. I have struggled often to learn the art contentment. It is something I am working to change in myself. Today, the words of Paul in the previous verses opened my mind to a new understanding about what it means to have hope for the future through Christ. To know of the glorious things the Lord has prepared for me, to have faith in that -- and that God himself "apprehended" me (like Paul) and put me here now for a purpose that I need to figure out and work towards -- well, it gives new purpose to a situation I might otherwise see as difficult and incomprehensible.
Any challenge in life can be tackled differently when you have a "mark for the prize" to "press toward" like Paul did -- and while my mark and prize may not be the same as Paul's they are nonetheless determined by God specifically for me and I can trust that.
The best part is that the Lord knows and understands my difficulty in doing this. That despite what I have learned today I will still struggle in the transitions of my life and I will continue making many of the same mistakes I always have -- but that the Lord has make provision for this, and this is part of how I am to learn and improve. The past is only to help us repent. Elder Holland goes on to say in his address that we are to remember "just enough" to try to avoid repeating our mistakes "but then put the rest of it all on the dung heap Paul spoke of to the Philippians. Dismiss the destructive, and keep dismissing it until the beauty of the Atonement of Christ has revealed to you your bright future and the bright future of your family, your friends, and your neighbors. God doesn’t care nearly as much about where you have been as He does about where you are and, with His help, where you are willing to go."