Turn loose and hold on…

I was at the store a few weeks ago and saw a bottle of Jergen’s original scented lotion. I don’t usually buy that brand, but it triggered a sweet memory in me of my grandma Broadway’s house from when I was a little girl. That was the lotion she bought. I always got to use a little bit when I was there, and it has a very distinct scent. I wanted to savor that memory, so I bought it. Isn’t it funny how different smells or sounds or words can trigger a memory….just pull it up out of nowhere? Some of those memories bring joy with them and fond, sweet feelings…but some of them can be downright mean. They come with anger and sadness and pain. Sometimes our memories can even seem like they’re out of control…and we remember things we’d rather forget and forget things we really need to remember. What do we do then…

I was at the store a few weeks ago and saw a bottle of Jergen’s original scented lotion. I don’t usually buy that brand, but it triggered a sweet memory in me of my grandma Broadway’s house from when I was a little girl. That was the lotion she bought. I always got to use a little bit when I was there, and it has a very distinct scent. I wanted to savor that memory, so I bought it. 🙂

Isn’t it funny how different smells or sounds or words can trigger a memory….just pull it up out of nowhere? Some of those memories bring joy with them and fond, sweet feelings…but some of them can be downright mean. They come with anger and sadness and pain. Sometimes our memories can even seem like they’re out of control…and we remember things we’d rather forget and forget things we really need to remember.

There are some memories we need to hold on to, but there are some things we just need to turn loose of. You’d think we would automatically know which is which, but sometimes we hold on tight to things we need to just let go of. God has so much to say about what to remember and what to forget…I wish there was room to go into it in more depth…but this is what we can take away today.

No, dear brothers and sisters, I have not achieved it, but I focus on this one thing: Forgetting the past and looking forward to what lies ahead, I press on to reach the end of the race and receive the heavenly prize for which God, through Christ Jesus, is calling us. (Philippians 3:13-14)

Sometimes we get this verse backwards. We get so consumed with the past that we forget we have a future. No, Paul had it right. We need to turn loose of the past and hold on to Him. Is it easy? Not so much! But if anyone can tell us about forgetting, it’s Paul. He had quite a bit to forget.

We know all about Paul before he met Jesus. He was there when Stephen was stoned giving his full consent. He persecuted the church to the point of putting Christians in jail and sending some to their death. And Paul didn’t just pop on the scene out of nowhere after Jesus was crucified. It is very likely that he was in that crowd shouting, “Crucify him! Crucify him!” If not, he definitely agreed with the idea.

Then God got his attention and his whole life changed. He went from persecuting Christians to being one. He went from sending them to jail to loving them. He went from fighting Jesus’ followers to writing their Bible.

Every single one of us has moments in our lives that we would love to forget…things we’re ashamed of…things we wish we would never have done, but instead of forgetting, we seem to let those things consume our thoughts and memories. And those things can hold us back from moving on into the future God has planned for us.

You simply can’t move forward with momentum if you’re looking behind you. Give it a try sometime. Try to walk forward while you’re looking backward…you’ll get a kick out of it. You won’t walk straight for sure, you’ll bump into things, and you’ll probably get hurt. You might get where you want to go, but it will definitely be a lot more difficult than if you were looking straight at the goal.

So how….how do we do this? How do we turn loose of those things?

Let us strip off every weight that slows us down, especially the sin that so easily trips us up. And let us run with endurance the race God has set before us. We do this by keeping our eyes on Jesus, the champion who initiates and perfects our faith. (Hebrews 12:1-2)

It’s not just a casual glance at Jesus…at His Word. It’s KEEPING our eyes fixed on Him….KEEPING our MINDS fixed on Him. On His Word. On His plan for our lives. That word means “with a steady, fixed, and absorbed gaze.” And it refers back to when the deadly snakes were infesting the Israelite camp in Numbers and they lifted up the brass serpent, and whoever looked at it would live.

The snakes were all around them…biting people and killing them. Yet they had to look at the brass serpent. They couldn’t look down at the snakes on the ground. They couldn’t even look to see if their kids or family were okay. They could only look up at the brass serpent. (You can read it here.)

There are so many things fighting for our attention….especially thoughts of our past failures and mistakes. It’s time to let them go. But it’s not just enough to turn loose of them….we have to replace them. And we do that by holding on to the Word.

We won’t truly live victoriously and walk forward effectively until we let go of the past and focus on Him. It won’t always be easy, but we can do this. We can forget and remember. We can turn loose and hold on. Let’s do it!

On my bed I remember you;
I think of you through the watches of the night.
Because you are my help,
I sing in the shadow of your wings.
I cling to you;
your right hand upholds me. (Psalm 63:6-8)

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