Keith Wishum: Paralyzed by the past

Published 4:00 pm Wednesday, March 23, 2016

She leans into to the microphone for her audition. This could be her big break, but all she can think about is how her voice cracked the last time. Her self-doubt dooms her to fail again.
He strides to the plate with the winning run on third. Just a base hit — that’s all he needs to be the hero. But his thoughts are stuck on a replay of him going down swinging the last time he stood in this spot. He strikes out again.
You hear the words that you could have a new life of unlimited possibilities — a life of happiness, a life that lasts forever. Or maybe it’s just an opportunity for a greater level of service — a challenge to stretch you to a new level.
But you know the very worst about you. You don’t feel qualified. Vivid memories of every wrong you ever did are branded into your brain. There is that one in particular, the one you hope nobody knows. So, you decide not to reach for this grand vision of a new life. It must not be meant for you.
That’s the decision Judas made. He betrayed his master, only to realize too late his horrible mistake. Overwhelmed by his failure, Judas hanged himself. What a waste!
Judas could have risen above his failure. Others did. The other 11 denied Jesus, too, but found forgiveness. Peter swore that he didn’t know Jesus, but repented and was reinstated. Paul fought against Jesus, dragging his followers to jail, but he changed his mind and his direction in life.
In his letter to the Philippians, Paul wrote of having discovered the secret of happiness — happiness independent of the circumstances (4:12). Part of his secret was “forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead” (3:13).
Too often, we let our past drag us down. Paul refused. He didn’t hide in shame. He didn’t flinch when called to greatness. Instead, Paul did what was necessary to find forgiveness (see Acts 22:16), and then put the past behind him where it belonged.
We may do the same! We don’t have to be paralyzed by our past. Stephen Covey advises: “Live out of your imagination, not your history.”
Good advice. That’s “forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead.”
Don’t pretend it never happened, but don’t be paralyzed by your past. Find forgiveness. Move on to magnificence.

Keith Wishum is minister, Williams Road Church of Christ, Americus.