Turning Northward # 2
In the same way, our call is northward, away from the common things into the higher and nobler things of life. We belong to God, and we should seek the things of God. We are risen with Christ, and we should seek the things of the resurrection life. Our citizenship is in Heaven, and we should have our hearts there. We are called to leave the narrow life of our earthly state, and turn northward.
Paul teaches us the same lesson in a remarkable passage in one of his epistles. He gives us a glimpse of the ideal life, the perfect life in Christ. He says frankly that he himself has not yet attained this sublime height, has not reached the best. "Not that I have already obtained all this, or have already been made perfect, but I press on to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of me. 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 3:12-14).
But this unattained life, he does not regard as unattainable - he will come up to it sometime. "I press on." He is like the boy in Longfellow's Excelsior." At the foot of the mountain he stood, gazing at the far-away radiant heights, but he wasted no moments in mere gazing. Carrying a banner which bore his motto, he began to climb. Disregarding all allurement, he kept on in his ascending path until he was lost sight of in the storms of the mountain crest. Thus Paul, this man of quenchless ardor, pressed his way toward the highest and best. He was in prison now, but prison walls were no barrier to his progress. He tells us, too, the method of his life. These two phrases which contain the secret of his noble career:
"Forgetting what is behind"
"straining toward what is ahead."
There were certain things that he FORGOT. Look at this a moment, for the word contains for us a secret we must learn if we would make progress northward. "Forgetting what is behind."
"Remembering" is a favorite Bible word. We are constantly extorted to remember, and urgently counseled not to forget. It is perilous to forget some things - to forget God, to forget the divine commandments. We are not to forget our past sinful condition, lest we grow proud. We are not to forget God's goodness and mercy, lest our love shall grow cold.
But there is a sense also in which our only hope is in forgetting. We never can get on to higher things, if we insist on clinging to our past and carrying it with us. We can make progress only by forgetting. We can go forward, only by leaving behind what is past.
For instance, we must forget our past MISTAKES. There are many of them, too. We think of them in our serious moods, at the close of a year, when we are forced to review our past, or when some deep personal experience sets our life before us in retrospection. We sigh, "Oh, if I had not made that foolish decision, if I had not let that wrong companionship into my life, if I had not gone into that wretched business which proved so unfortunate, if I had not blundered so in trying to manage my own affairs, if I had not taken the bad advice which has led me into such hopeless consequences - how much better my life would have been!"
Some people keep circling regretfully the mountains of their one year's mistakes through all the following year. They do little but fret over their errors all the months which they ought to make bright with better things, nobler achievements, loftier attainments. But what good comes of it? Worry undoes no folly, corrects no mistakes, brings back nothing you have lost. A year of fretting, sets you no further forward. The best use you can possibly make of last year's blunders, is to forget them, and then to get wisdom from the experience for this year. Remembering them, keeping them before you in painful regret will only make you less strong for avoiding them hereafter. To err is human. We learn by making mistakes. Nobody ever does anything perfectly the first time he tries it. The artist spoils yards of canvas and reams of paper in mastering his art. It is the same in living. It takes most of a lifetime to learn how to live gracefully and holily.
There is a way also by which our mistakes may be made to work good for us. We can so deal with them that they shall be made to yield good instead of evil. We well know that many of life's best things in character and virtue, have come out of follies. We owe far more than we know, to our blunders.
One day Ruskin was with a friend who, in great distress, showed him a fine handkerchief on which someone had carelessly let fall a drop of ink. The woman was vexed beyond measure at the hopeless ruining of her fine handkerchief. Ruskin said nothing, and took the handkerchief away with him. In a few days he brought it back, but ruined no longer. Using the blot as the base of a drawing, he had made an exquisite bit of India-ink work on the handkerchief, thus giving it a beauty and a value far beyond what it possessed before it had been blotted.
There is a mysterious ability in God's wisdom and goodness, which can take our mistakes and follies - and out of them bring beauty, blessing, and good. Forget your blunders, put them into the hands of Christ, leave them with Him to deal with as He sees fit, and He will show them to you afterward as marks of loveliness, no longer as blunders,but as the very elements of virtuous character. Forget your mistakes and turn northward!
We should forget our past HURTS. There are hurts in every life. Somebody did you harm last year. Somebody was unkind to you, and left a sting in your memory. Somebody said something untrue about you, talked malignly of you, misrepresented you.You say you cannot forget these hurts, these injuries, these wrongs. But you can. Do not nourish them. Only worse harm to you, will come from keeping them in your memory and thinking about them. Do not let them rankle in your heart.
The Master forgot the wrongs and injuries done to Him, and you have not suffered the one-thousandth part of the things He suffered in this way. He loved on, as if no wrong had been done to him. A few moments after a boat has ploughed the water, the bosom of the lake is smooth again as ever. So it was in the heart of Jesus after the most grievous injuries had been inflicted upon Him.
Thus should we forget the hurts done to us. Only worse hurt will come to us through our continuing to brood over our injuries. Crimes have been done, by remembering wrongs. But hurts forgotten in love, become new adornments in the life. A tiny grain of sand in a pearl oyster makes a wound; but instead of running into a festering sore, the wound becomes a pearl. So a wrong patiently endured, mastered by love, adds new beauty to the life.
We should also forget our past ATTAINMENTS - the things we have achieved, our successes. Nothing hampers and hinders a man more than thinking over the good or great things he has done in the past. There are many people who never achieved much worth while, after doing one or two really worthy or beautiful things. The elation spoiled him, and that was the end of what might have been a fine career. There are people who once did a good thing, and have done little since but tell others about it. They have been circling their Mount Seir many days.
~J. R. Miller~
(continued with # 3)