“Forgetting the past and looking forward to what lies ahead…” Philippians 3:13 (TLB)
This verse from Philippians has been going through my mind for quite some time. I must admit, most days I would rather push it aside and not think about it!
My first impression of this passage was, in order to move or look forward to what lies before me on this journey, I must forget my past!
But, what if I do not want to “forget the past” and “look forward”?
I don’t want to “forget” the many years my husband and I shared together. I don’t want to forget the times we had together (good and bad), his smile, his voice, his touch, the warmth and safety I felt when he wrapped his arms around me, and so much more. I just want it like it was before my husband died!
My husband and I were happy and looking forward to growing old together. Oh, our lives were full of challenges, just like many of you experienced, but together, and with God’s help, we were able to face each challenge, one at a time. Honestly, I had never given any thought of facing life without him.
However, as I continue to move through the many stages of grief connected with this journey, I know that things will never be the same. I can’t go back. If I am going to survive, I must “move forward”.
Do I know what that will involve? No, but I know I must trust God and take one step at a time! I also know He loves me and is holding my right hand, guiding me with His wisdom and counsel.
As time passes, I find the intensity of my grief is not nearly as great as it was in the beginning. I am still very sad my life here on earth will never be the same, and there will always be an “ache” in my heart for my husband that no one else can ever fill. In spite of all those feelings, I am finding God is allowing me to begin to move forward. He is giving me the courage to try and do things I never would have ever considered doing before my husband passed away.
I am also realizing I do not have to “forget” the past I shared with my husband. I can keep in my heart the memories and love we shared. They are mine, and no one can take them away from me!
I do not believe Paul was advising a “memory wipe” when he says, “forgetting what is behind.” I believe he was telling us to not live in the past, but to focus on the present and the future. We are to “press toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called us heavenward in Christ Jesus.”
When I am honest with myself, my life has always been full of “moving forward” and making many changes. Making the transition and crossing these bittersweet thresholds was usually an anguished and sticky passage, but somehow, it seemed to be easier with my husband by my side.
Many years ago, I came across an article which I have kept in my wallet to remind me of leaving the old and embracing the new. I do not even remember what challenge I was facing at the time I read this, and I certainly never imagined that I would ever apply it to the loss of my dear husband. These words have meant a lot to me the past few months:
“No matter what you are leaving, scoop from the ashes every brightness – the cherished lessons and experiences, the love that can burn a lifetime. Take these things with you, and toss the rest bravely to the wind.”
Lord, it’s so difficult to let go of the past and to move forward. Thank You for the memories I can keep forever. Help me not to live in the past, but, give me the strength and desire to continue to move forward and press toward the goal to win the prize which God has set before me! Amen
*this article first appeared as Forgetting the Past by the late Karen Emberlin on March 12, 2015