One thing I do, forgetting those things which are behind and reaching forward to those things which are before.

—Philippians 3:13

Here we have the famous verse people use to “forget” the pains and mistakes of life as though doing so will hold you from going forward. However, the context of this verse advocates not allowing your successes to keep you from reaching for what is still beyond you.

There are strategies for avoiding the journey through past pain (“I’ve dealt with that”) and present suffering (“I can handle this”). Both necessarily involve some minimizing of pain by reducing the unknown to something with which I am familiar — “I’ve been there.” “I’ve done that.” “I know what it is like.” All may be true, but if used to not fully experience the challenges, it can become a problem.

“Every epic tale that inspires us will usually follow the journey of a hero, their plight for greatness, their quest for restoration and their fight for freedom. This journey will almost always lead them through suffering, wounding, and sacrifice. Often in this wounding the true hero is found, and the real adventure begins: The adventure of the soul.” (Richard Rohr, Falling Upward)

Remembering hard times and lessons takes courage; it is a spiritual discipline. My unspoken fear of remembering can be connected to those times in the past that I felt inadequate to deal with what I was up against and can hold me back from relying on my faith through the pain—even the pain of memory. My unspoken fear of remembering past inadequacies in facing and dealing with the pains of life can hold me back from trusting that the pain of remembering is useful. There is a saying that suggest the more painful the lesson the more important it is to learn from it.

It takes practice to know what to remember and what to forget. Remembering the pain and forgetting the power of my growth and development because of it can keep me disconnected from the moment and throws me back to the times when I felt so out of control, helpless, lost or alone. Remembering the growth, on the other hand, releases me into the liberty of the moment.

Personally, I hate feeling out of control. And my circumstance often seem to communicate that God doesn’t care for me, or He may even be oblivious to my circumstances!

In reference to Philippians 3:13, Matthew Henry says that Paul forgot the things that were behind so as not to be content with what he already attained: he was still for having more and more. So he reaches forth and stretched himself forward, bearing towards his goal—his ‘high calling’.

Often the tragedies of life don’t seem to make sense. Our attempt to understand the mysteries of life—its pain and suffering as well as its joy and gladness—fall short, and all we are left with is an utter dependence that God has our back. Yet it is here, in our “weakness,” where we are made strong.

What a paradox that an embracing of our frailty, and subsequent dependence on God, increases our capacity to not only contain the afflictions of life, but to appreciate life’s beauty as well. Beauty and affliction both pierce our soul (Simon Wiel) and increase our vulnerability as we allow them to mark us.

How often do we strive to reach for more? Reaching for more means to touch our areas of insufficiency, to actually be vulnerable to God and others—to open up and expose our woundedness, knowing that we will probably be more hurt as a result.

Who is your example in life? What have you set as your “high calling?” What is the race you are running? How will you know when you have accomplished it? What is the prize you are running for? What role does God play in that construct? Is He present to “make it work,” a means to an end? Is He there to have it make sense? Has Christianity become another formula to dissipate the radical randomness of the dangers of love and life?

The answers to these questions will determine how you experience every event and circumstance past, present, and future.

Keep reaching forward!