When my dad was teaching me to drive, he advised me to "Back up only as far as is necessary to go forward. Backing up too much is how you get into trouble." Two separate scrapes in my van's bumper testify to the wisdom in that statement. But I think I've remembered his words for thirty years because they comprise a good analogy for life. Some backing up is necessary to recall God's faithfulness or to avoid repeating mistakes, but constantly dredging the past gets me into trouble.
There is a Japanese proverb that says:
"My skirt with tears is always wet, I have forgotten to forget."
While it can be a struggle to forget wrongs inflicted by others, I mostly wrestle with forgiving my own sins or failures. Although my greatest opportunity for having a manuscript published is before me, I "forget to forget" dozens of previous rejections, and wonder if I should "ditch the whole writing thing." However, if I am writing for God's glory, I need to overcome fear, put my "hand to the plow," and not look back.
After listing his prestigious religious accomplishments, the apostle Paul "remembered to forget" them. He did not want pride getting in the way of moving forward:
"But one thing I do:Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead,I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus." Philippians 3:13b-14(NIV)
I appreciate the word "straining" in Paul's verse, because forgetting and pressing onward require strenuous effort. However, the alternative consequences are more agonizing. If I have "forgotten to forget," then pride, bitterness, pain, and fear offer stagnation, slow progress (three steps forward, two steps back), or retreat. And focusing on the road already traveled obstructs my view of God's new way ahead:
"Do not call to mind the former things,
Or ponder things of the past.
Behold, I will do something new,
Now it will spring forth;
Will you not be aware of it?
I will even make a roadway in the wilderness,
Rivers in the desert."
Is. 43:18-19 (NASB)
Even if an ill-chosen path abandons me in the wilderness, the fingers of God will carve a new one. And if the omniscient God of the Universe remembers my sins no more, what grace should I extend to others...or myself? I must "remember to forget," and drive forward.