Don't Look Back
Updated: Mar 25, 2022
In three words, I can sum up everything I’ve learned about life. It goes on.
~ Robert Frost
Boy! Isn't that the truth!
I love it when I get in my car for a long road trip and my GPS says: "For 425 miles, go forward!" You do realize that no power in the universe goes backward on the timeline, right? But so many times we wish things could have been different or that we could have been different. Perhaps being different would have allowed us to have a different reaction or to create a different outcome to situations we have bungled or that didn't turn out the way we thought they would. If we could have changed something or changed ourselves perhaps we wouldn't have ended up disappointed, dissatisfied, or dismayed.
But inasmuch as we wish disappointments would have turned out differently, we can oftentimes wish for past successes to repeat. We can spend so much time reminiscing on our past achievements or stack of accolades that we become stuck and never attempt something new again. The last great achievement actually becomes our last great achievement.
God doesn't want us to try to go back and undo or change anything. He wants us to press on and let Him show us the possibilities of our future.
Rather than going back to try to fix our mistakes, God wants us the do the next right thing to eliminate the effects of them. We can undo the effects of a lot of bad experiences if we do the right things now, like repenting, forgiving, forgetting, loving, blessing, believing, and looking forward.
You wouldn't operate a car by looking through the rearview mirror while driving, so you probably shouldn't do that in life either. The windshield is a much more exciting view.
Nostalgia is a sentimental longing for the past, typically for a period with happy associations.
You can google and find many reasons why it may be a good idea to look back to your past. Reasons such as:
nostalgia has mood-boosting effects,
nostalgia can help us make sense of hardships,
nostalgia makes us feel more loved,
nostalgia can physically make us feel warmer,
nostalgia gives us optimism.
But no matter how tempting those reasons may be, almost every article I read about remembering our past included a gentle reminder not to get stuck or dwell there. They should have just read the bible. God clearly said it first.
In Genesis 19, God commanded Lot and his wife to flee the vile, sinful, degenerate city of Sodom & Gomorrah as he was going to destroy it. He sent two angels to urge them to escape the destruction he was about to rain down on the wicked city.
"As soon as they had brought them out, one of them said, “Flee for your lives! Don’t look back, and don’t stop anywhere in the plain! Flee to the mountains or you will be swept away!” Genesis 19:17
As they fled, Lot's wife looked back and because of her disobedience turned into a pillar of salt. She turned and watched the flaming sulfur fall from the sky, consuming everything she valued. Then it consumed her. The Hebrew for “looked back” means more than to glance over one’s shoulder. It means “to regard, to consider, to pay attention to.” The Scriptures don’t say whether her death was a punishment for valuing her old life so much that she hesitated in obeying, or if it was a simple consequence of her reluctance to leave her life quickly. Either she identified too much with the wicked city—and joined it—or she neglected to fully obey God’s warning, and she died. The mistake of Lot’s wife was in looking back, in trying to cling to her former self instead of surrendering to new spiritual possibilities. Those who do surrender, who look ahead to new possibilities instead of backward to old comforts will be lifted to kingdom consciousness.
Over and over again in the bible, we are encouraged to forget the past, press on and move forward.
"Let your eyes look straight ahead; fix your gaze directly before you." Proverbs 4:25
"Forget the former things; do not dwell on the past." Isaiah 43:18
"Jesus replied, “No one who puts a hand to the plow and looks back is fit for service in the kingdom of God.” Luke 9:62
"Remember Lot's wife!" Luke 17:32
"No, dear brothers and sisters, I have not achieved it, but one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead, I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus..." Phillippians 3:13
We could camp out on any one of those verses but I want to dig into Philippians because in that one little verse there are five major components to windshield mentality.
1. Dissatisfaction (I have not achieved it)
"If nothing in this life satisfies you, it is probably proof that you were not made for this life." C.S. Lewis Divine dissatisfaction is a sign of Christian maturity. It is an acknowledgment that we are "always arriving" and constantly in pursuit of coming to a place of greater maturity. Our dissatisfaction is not in Christ, it is in the life we are living. Self-evaluation can be a dangerous thing because we do one of two things: make ourselves better than we are or make ourselves worse than we really are. A divine dissatisfaction is essential for spiritual progress. It is given to us by God.
2. Devotion (one thing)
Concentration is the secret of power. One thing is a phrase that is important to the Christian life. Too many of us are involved in too many things when the secret of progress is to concentrate on one thing. Winners are those who focus on one goal and let nothing distract them. They are devoted entirely to their calling.
3. Direction (forgetting behind /straining forward)
An unsaved person is controlled by the past, but the Christian running the race looks toward the future. As a believer, we should be future-oriented, "forgetting what lies behind." "To forget" in the bible does not mean "fail to remember" it means "no longer influenced by or affected by". So forgetting behind simply means that we break the power of the past by living for the future. We cannot change the past, but we can change its meaning. The past can inspire us to move forward.
4. Determination (I press on)
"I press on" carries the idea of an intense endeavor. You don't become a winning athlete by reading books, watching videos, or listening to lectures, or cheering at games. You win by participating in the game and determining to win. What to avoid here is the wrong mentality of either you must do it all or God must do it all. Both extremes should be avoided. God must work in you to work through you. Don't die so much to self that you never come back to life again. And don't be so sure you can make it on your own that you never pick up a bible, pray or ask the Lord for his power. Be determined to obtain the prize, but let God be part of the process and journey.
5. Discipline (goal for the prize)
If we discipline ourselves to obey the rules, we will earn the prize. The bible is filled with stories of those who failed in the end because they disregarded the rules ( Lot, Samson, Saul). Disqualification happens when we break training or the rules. The bible is clear, it doesn't matter what we think - God lays them out. And when we cross the finish line, he will be the judge. If we have discipline - we get the prize.
Windshield mentality subscribes to the belief that "No matter what's behind us in the rearview mirror, it's always about what's next". Use this idea to serve not only as a guiding principle but a tactical approach. Learn from but do not dwell on the past, and in so doing, you will stay sharp, execution-focused, and goal-driven. There is a reason the rearview mirror is small and the windshield is big. Where you're headed, is more important than what you are leaving behind, and where you're going, is far, far better than where you were. The moment you realize you are on the right path is the moment you realize that looking back holds no interest to you. Once you make the decision to move, don't look back. Your destiny is not found in the rearview mirror.