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The Beauty of Every Day: Chapter 9 - Getting Away from Our Past

By J.R. Miller

      Paul tells us that he made his progress in spiritual life--by forgetting the things that were behind. "Brothers, I do not consider myself yet to have taken hold of it. 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 3:13-14

      Remembering is a favorite Bible word. Forgetting is not usually commended. There is peril in forgetting. Indeed we forget altogether too much. Yet there are certain things we must forget--if we would make any progress in life.

      We must forget our mistakes. There are many of them, too, and some of us never get away from their influence. We often sigh, "Oh, if I had not done that foolish thing, if I had not let that bad companionship into my life, if I had not taken that bad advice--how much better my life would have been!" We fret over the mistakes we have made, the blunders of our lives, and yield to their disheartening influence. We think that we can never make anything of our life, because of one pitiful mistake, one grievous sin. We think that we can never be a soldier, because we have lost one battle; that we can never succeed in business, because our first effort was a sad failure. These are things we should forget, not allowing them to check our onward life.

      Some people carry the mistakes of all their years with them unto the end, and they hang like chains on them, so that they can make no progress. But this is a fearful waste of life. We grow by making mistakes. Think how many mistakes you made in learning to write, how many copybooks you spoiled before your penmanship became a credit to you! Think how many mistakes the artist makes before he is able to put a worthy picture on canvas, how many mistakes the musician makes before he is able to play a piece of music well! In every department of life, there are years and years with little but mistakes, immaturities, blunders--while men and women are preparing for beautiful living and noble work. Forget your mistakes, leave them behind, let God take care of them--and go on to better things. Build a palace on your failures, making them part of the foundation.

      We should forget the hurts we receive. Somebody did you harm last year. Somebody was unkind to you and left a wound. Forget these hurts! Do not remember them; do not cherish them, allowing them to rankle in your heart. The other day a man's hand was swollen and black, in serious danger of blood poisoning, all from a little splinter which in some way got into a finger and was permitted to stay there until it almost made necessary the amputation of the hand or arm, endangering the life. That is the way little hurts, when remembered, fester and make great distress, and sometimes produce even fatal results.

      Remember how Cain's envy was nursed and grow into fratricide! Jesus warned men against anger, saying it is murder, that is, the beginning of murder, a feeling which if cherished, may ripen into actual crime.

      There are people who grow jealous of others. First it is only a feeling of which they are ashamed. But they brood over it, think of it day and night, until it grows and at length fills their whole life, and becomes a hateful passion which spoils their days and possibly ends in some great wrong. How much wiser is the oyster! A tiny grain of sand gets under its shell and grinds and hurts and makes a sore. Instead, however, of letting it become an ugly wound--the oyster, by peculiar secretions, makes a pearl. That is what we may do with others' unlovingness or their faults--change them into pearls of beauty in our character. If anyone hurts you by an unkindness, forget it and let the wound be healed in love.

      We should forget our past attainments, our successes and achievements. A writer tells of a man he had known for twenty-five years. The first time he saw him the man told of a certain good thing he had done many years before--a really good thing which greatly helped a community. He had seen him occasionally ever since, and every time the man told him the same story of the fine thing he had done long ago. It was a really good story. The thing he did was worthy. But would it not have been better if he had forgotten that one excellent deed of long ago--in doing other noble things a hundred times since?

      We should never regard any noble deed of ours--as our best. We should never look back for the climax of our attainment or achievement. Paul was quite an old man when he wrote the words about forgetting past things--but he had forgotten all his past sacrifices and achievements, and was looking forward yet for better and higher work to do. However noble and useful your last year was, however good you were, however much you did for Christ and for your fellow-men, forget it all and set about making the next year the best ever you have lived!

      We should forget our past sins. In one sense, we cannot. They will not be forgotten. This ought to keep us humble and make us wary. We should never forget the peril of sin. But sin forgiven should be forgotten and left behind. That is, we should believe in the forgiveness of our sins which have been confessed and repented of.

      The other day one was speaking of an experience of over fifteen years back--a sin--and the black shadow still hung over his life, shutting out the sun and the blue of the sky, hiding the face of God and quenching all joy and hope. That is not the way Christ wants us to be with our sins. He came to save us from them, and when they are forgiven, he bids us go in peace. Put your repentance into songs of gratitude and joy, and into new service. If one day has been spoiled by sin, do not spoil another day by grieving over it. Forget your past sins--in holy and beautiful living.

      We should forget our sorrows. It is not easy. The empty chairs remind us always of those who used to sit on them. The loneliness stays, and it takes wise and diligent watchfulness not to allow a sadness to wrap itself about us like sackcloth, or to enter into us like an atmosphere and darken our life. But God does not want our sorrows to hurt us, so as to mar our joy and beauty. He wants them to become a blessing to us, to soften our hearts and enrich our character. He wants us always to remember the friends who have been so much to us and have gone from us--but to forget the griefs in the joy of divine comfort. Every grief should leave a blessing.

      These are suggestions of Paul's secret of noble life--forgetting things that are behind. We should never leave behind or throw away, however, anything that is good and lovely. We are to keep all our treasures of experience. All the good impressions, influences, lessons, and inspirations that we receive--we are to cherish. We should hold fast every good thing that comes to us. Not a good thing that is ever ours--should we lose.

      What a serious loss it would be--if there were no remembering, if we could not keep ever as our own the joys, the delights, the precious things of the past! We do not begin to know what treasures we may lay up for ourselves, if we live always beautifully and have only sweet and sacred memories. "Make yourselves nests of pleasant thoughts," says Ruskin. "None of us realize what fairy palaces we may build of beautiful thoughts, armor against all adversity--bright and satisfied memories, noble histories, faithful sayings, treasure-houses of precious and restful thoughts, which care cannot disturb, nor pain make gloomy, nor poverty take away from us--houses built without hands, for our souls to live in."

      We should keep all that will enrich our character, that will sweeten our memory, that will make music in our hearts in the after years--but things that will vex us and worry us as we think of them--we are to forget.

      We are to win the high altitudes in life by leaving and forgetting the things that are behind. Oh, if we could only get away from our past! It holds us in chains. It enmeshes us, so that we cannot get disentangled from it. "Remember Lot's wife!" how the poor woman could not get free from her past, how it dragged her back when the angels were trying to rescue and save her--so that she was turned into a pillar of salt, and perished. Many people are lost--by clinging to their past.

      When Cardinal Mazarin was near to death, it is said a courtier in his palace saw him walking about the great halls of his palace, gazing on the magnificent pictures, the statuary, and works of art. "Must I leave it all? Must I leave it all?" he was heard to murmur despairingly. These were his treasures, the accumulation of a long life of wealth and power. These were the things he had lived for, and they were things he could not take with him. He must leave them to the moth and rust.

      We must beware of our earthly entanglements. We should forget the things of the past--by having our hearts filled with the glory of things to come!

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See Also:
   Chapter 1 - While We May
   Chapter 2 - The Glory of the Common Life
   Chapter 3 - Seeds of Light
   Chapter 4 - He Calls Us Friends
   Chapter 5 - Not Counting God
   Chapter 6 - Perfection in Loving
   Chapter 7 - Shut Your Door
   Chapter 8 - Things That Hurt Life
   Chapter 9 - Getting Away from Our Past
   Chapter 10 - Thomas' Mistake
   Chapter 11 - Friends and Friendship
   Chapter 12 - The Yoke and the School
   Chapter 13 - The Weak Brother
   Chapter 14 - The Lure of the Ministry
   Chapter 15 - Narrow Lives
   Chapter 16 - The True Enlarging of Life
   Chapter 17 - Through the Year with God
   Chapter 18 - The Remembers
   Chapter 19 - Caring for the Broken Things


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