This is the month I turn 40. It’s kind of hard to believe, but on February 20, I can check off four whole decades on the calendar of my life. Forty is a huge milestone for everyone, but it is especially meaningful to me. Diagnosed with a neuromuscular disease that was projected to kill me before the age of three years, I was never expected to live through childhood, much less through my teen years and into adulthood. When I am speaking and sharing my story with people, I like to say that most people dread crow’s feet, but the crow’s feet that are beginning to form around my eyes simply mark the fact that I have been around to laugh a lot longer the doctors ever expected.
In these 40 years of my life, I have experienced many things, both good and bad. There are moments that I will treasure forever, and there are those that I wish I could change and have a “do over.” In other words, like everyone else, I have things that I am proud of, but there are also things that made me cringe to remember.
As I have pondered on this over the last year especially, I have begun to realize that now more than ever, it is important to move forward. No one is immune from being human and all that entails, so that means we have all made mistakes. But praise the Lord for being gracious and compassionate, slow to anger and rich in love!
It is easy to let ourselves slide down the slippery slope of regret into what will eventually be despair if we do not experience a mindset change. We must be committed to renewing our mind daily in order to walk in victory. To do so, we have to do one very specific thing.
There’s nothing that we can do to change where we have been, what we have done, or how we have handled situations. The past is past. That’s why I love this scripture passage from Philippians. Paul, the apostle, was probably the most well-known early persecutor of disciples of Jesus. He was steeped in religious tradition and so deeply indoctrinated that he participated in causing the deaths of those who tried to shine the light of Christ in those early days. However, once he had an encounter with Christ himself, everything changed. He could never go back and “un-persecute” those he had persecuted. He could not “make it right” to the families of those who were imprisoned and killed because of his actions.
But he intentionally chose not to live in regret. He made it a point to forget what was past. In this passage, the word “forget” is the Greek word epilanthanomai. The closest translation for it is our English word, forget, but in the original language, it also means “neglecting,” “no longer caring for,” and my personal favorite, “given over to oblivion.” Paul chose to be oblivious to the potential for regret in his past.
Because he had a purpose for the future. Before, he had persecuted believers, but he was now called to bring believers into the Kingdom. Whereas he had ridiculed the message of the disciples, he now was a disciple preaching the message himself.
In order to embrace our purpose, we have to let go of regret.
There is a call on each of our lives. It doesn’t matter what we’ve done. As long as we still have breath in our bodies and beating hearts, we have the opportunity to make a decision to forget what is past and reach forward to what lies ahead in order to press on toward the goal of the upper call in Christ.
Some of you reading this have felt that you are too far down the wrong road. In fact, you’re reading this right now thinking that on the outside, people think you have it together, while on the inside, you feel absolutely hopeless. You feel that you have missed it. You believe that nothing you can do will really change anything now. But I am here to tell you this.
It is not too late. Don’t you dare believe that for one minute.
You are called, and you’re chosen. So choose today to embrace your purpose and to walk in it every day you have from this point forward.