Recently one of my pastors preached on Philippians, my favorite book of the Bible. He started at 3:12-14, one of the especially meaningful sections for me. He entitled it “Are we there yet?” This is the question so many kids ask from the back seat on a long road trip. It is excitement and boredom that bring it on. He clearly articulated that in this passage the most important thing is our destination. Our ultimate goal should be heaven with Jesus Christ as Lord. This is a decision that I made some 27 years ago after a lot of difficult years in upbringing and in my own bad choices. I am still in the process of reframing my past behavior as I “press on toward the higher calling to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus” (Philippians 3:14). This is good, to press forward because we have not yet attained it. We are a work in progress and process. This is called sanctification or consecration. First, as part of it, we must “Do one thing; forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead” (3:13).
It is in the forgetting that we are retrained, reframed, and redefined in the love of Christ to forgive ourselves and others and seek reconciliation for the many trials, errors, wrong turns and sins of our past. We did not choose our home of origin and it may have brought us trying years. For me it was growing up in an alcoholic environment where achievement was highly esteemed to look good to others. This created an unstable and “walking on eggshells” atmosphere of which many of you are unfortunately familiar. I also strained to be liked and to do what caused less stress in the house. I did not live in a way to develop my own character clearly. Eating disorders and even poor moral decisions down the line were part of the results. Pulling away from my parent’s plan for me was another “strain,” albeit a good one in the end.
The result was that I needed to “forget what was behind and press on toward the higher calling.” This first required my repenting, turning around, receiving Jesus Christ as my Savior and Lord. This came as my career as a hospital turnaround CEO was cracking badly under the strain of work and my own poor decisions. Then came Christian counseling and trial that was part of the smelting furnace or purification, and transformation of my character and walk. I began a new walk that God Himself spoke aloud to me in a counselor’s office saying, “This is the way, walk in it.” (Isaiah 30:21). He was telling me that His voice would clearly lead me the right way if I would walk in it. I have, with God’s help, worked on this path. It is articulated in my 2-volume book, This is The Way, Walk in It (Amazon 2015), telling of God’s leading my path since He dramatically stopped me at midnight in a January 1999 blizzard on a Lake Superior highway to repent and receive His merciful grace.
I needed healing in the present and from my past, which God brought by first orchestrating my being able to lead both of my parents to a saving decision to accept Jesus as Lord in their last months on earth and to restore the Joy of His salvation in me through it. This dramatic reconciliation with my parents and even a former pastor began a steady new walk in His way that included seminary and my ultimate calling into healthcare chaplaincy where I serve today. God has used my broken past to help other broken people find strength to start new lives.
As C.S. Lewis said, “There are far better things ahead than we leave behind.” Jesus is leading believers, particularly me, on a journey out of the past and straining into a wonderful healed future day by day. It is indeed a prize. We have the treasure, which is the gospel in “jars of clay” that are our broken lives being made perfect in His strength. The light shines through the cracks that others would see Jesus and glorify the Father in heaven.