STRAINING FORWARD

Have you ever experienced a personal failure?  I had one when I was in middle school.  I look back at it and I’m reminded of the lack of performance and effort I gave at the age of twelve for my football team at Zundy Junior High in Wichita Falls, Texas. It was a team of champions who won the city title that year in 1966. But not me! During a regular season game I let the coach, the players and myself down because, as a 4th string player, I refused to go into the game when called on. I was scared because I didn’t know the plays. I didn’t prepare myself. After all I was way down on the list and the bench warmer never gets in the game—right?

Folks, this was 48 years ago, and it still hurts to think about it. If I could somehow reassemble that group for a second shot at it, even today, I would jump at the chance. This is almost funny, because today there are certainly other things more worthy of my attention. We all made mistakes we're tempted to revisit. Most of us have a quiver full of them, and from time to time we pull one out to use for target practice against ourselves—“Why did I say it that way?” “Why did I do that?” “Why didn't I try harder?” “What in the world was I thinking?”
 
I once heard a former staff member of First Baptist Church of Dallas say that the most admirable trait of Pastor W.A. Criswell was his ability to shut the door on the past. "Never look back, lad," he used to say. (W.A. called everyone "lad.") His advice echoes the words of Paul—"But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal..."(Philippians 3:13) 
 
Forget what is behind, he says. Your past is a catalogue of high moments and low moments; wins and losses, homeruns and strikeouts—and they all have something in common—they don't serve you well today.

You can live only one life at a time—the one that ended yesterday or the one that began today. Focusing on this day is the only way to experience the abundant life that Jesus promised. And, oddly enough, straining forward is the only way to make sense of the past.

Bob Dylan once wrote...
 
Don't have the inclination to look back at any mistake,
Like Cain I now behold the chain of events that I must break.
In the fury of the moment, I can see the Master's hand,
In every leaf that trembles, in every grain of sand.
 
If you're ready to strain forward toward the prize awaiting you, you begin by letting go of the past—the silly mistakes and the serious ones, the failures as well as the successes. Today is yours. Strain forward!

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