“Forget the former things; do not dwell on the past. See, I am doing a new thing! Now it springs up; do you not perceive it? I am making a way in the wilderness and streams in the wasteland.” (Isaiah 43:18-19)
“… forgetting what is behind and straining towards what is ahead, I press on towards the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenwards in Christ Jesus.” (Philippians 3:13-14)
The Bible is full of ‘new day’ promises like those ones. God is always encouraging us to look ahead, move forward, embrace tomorrow and move on from yesterday. We often need reminding why the windscreen is so large and the rear view mirror is so small. While it’s important to reflect on the past and know where we’ve been, our focus must be forward to where God is calling us. Life can deal us some pretty rough hands from time to time and the danger is always there for us to allow that rear view mirror to grow and draw our attention so much so that our vision of the future is hindered or lost all together.
A ministry colleague of mine, Dr Ken Blue, told me a story about his grandfather’s farm in the USA where Ken used to spend holidays when he was a child. In the paddock next to the house there was this huge pear tree which Ken used to climb and sit at the top for hours. He felt like he could see forever from up there. It was his special place.
Many years later, after Ken was married with his own children and living a long way from the farm, his grandfather called him with some bad news. A huge storm had hit the farm and the old pear tree had been uprooted. He knew how special that tree was to Ken and so he asked him if he wanted to see it one last time. So Ken drove out to the farm, reflecting all the way about the special times he had in that tree. As soon as he arrived, Ken and his grandfather walked over to the next paddock and they both just stood there in silence next to this majestic old tree, which was totally uprooted and lying on the ground.
Ken finally said, through tears, “So what do we do now grandfather?” The wise old man put his arm on Ken’s shoulder and said, “Son, we pick the fruit and burn the rest.” That one statement remained with Ken the rest of his life and became a powerful principle for living. At every birthday, anniversary and significant ‘new beginning’ in Ken’s life and ministry he remembers those words.
As we face each new chapter in our lives and reflect on the journey which brought us to that point, we need to be able to ‘pick the fruit’ – that is, learn from the past; grow from our mistakes; cherish the memories; be thankful for the good times; but then we need to ‘burn the rest’ – all the failures, disappointments and things we wish had been different. We have to move forward into the ‘new day’ God has prepared for us and not stand there beside a dying tree longing for a day long past.
That will necessitate change. Anything which is ‘new’ is, by definition, not the same as before and so change is inevitable. Change can be exciting and liberating or it can be threatening and debilitating. It all depends on how we respond. As believers, led by the Holy Spirit, we should never fear change. We have a deep sense of God’s providence and care for us as His children and as the family of God.
So as the next chapter in your life unfolds, I pray that you will be able to follow Ken’s grandfather’s advice also as you pick the fruit and burn the rest.