Life is Happening in Front of, not Behind You

Violet

Another walk with Violet, another illustration on life. Violet, I’m sure most of you know by now, is our Goldendoodle. Unless it is a downpour, my wife Betsy and I take her for a 1.5 mile walk every morning.

Violet, in my somewhat jaded opinion, is simply the best dog ever. She is everything I could hope for in a pet: a wonderful disposition, smart and non-shedding (those of you who have had Basset Hounds know how good this can be!) All in all, Vi is very low maintenance.

This is not to say that she has no faults at all. Her need to have absolutely everything (wind velocity and direction along with proper barometric pressure) in order so she can go number 2 can be frustrating. The other quirk my dog exhibits is the inspiration for this post: Violet frequently (and for no apparent reason) will whip her head around to look behind while continuing to walk forward. This peculiar behavior has caused her to walk into more than one car bumper on our strolls.

Being one who talks to the dog like she’s human, I have tried to explain to Violet that life is happening in front of, not behind, her. If she would only stop looking back so much I tell her, she could avoid the painful bumps on her skull. While my discussions on this point have revealed little change in Vi’s frequent over-the-shoulder glances, I have been trying to apply this same principle to my life.

One of the teachings from 12 Step recovery says that we do not regret the past nor wish to shut the door on it. (From AA’s Big Book.) Simply stated, this tells me to learn from my past mistakes to reduce the likelihood of repeating them. To shut out all the memories from my dark past, then, would be a mistake, less I forget the lessons I have now gleaned from them.

For the most part, I have had success with this. By keeping some of the pain I caused in my consciousness, I am reminded daily of the devastation I am capable of but certainly do not want to inflict or go through again.

However, there are certain events or conversations, no matter how old they are, that will still pop up in my head, trying to gain my full attention. Things that I thought I had dealt with will seemingly be there out of blue. Hurts, both real and imagined, will come swimming to the forefront of my thoughts. These tend to keep my focus on things past rather than on what is in front of me.

Most of the time, I realize that these random intrusions are just that, random. Part of not shutting the door on the past does make it possible for other things kept back there to want to creep out. Staying aware of this happening often allows me to quickly put them back in their proper place.

When I do not quickly put these thoughts back into the past however, if I decide to linger over them, I risk joining Violet in bumping into something right in front of me because my focus was on what I thought might be behind me.

Like Vi, I need to remind myself that life is currently happening in front of me, not behind. If I will but properly use and learn from the experiences of my past, I can usually avoid bumping my head when I did not have to.

Life’s joys, challenges and yes, mundane daily occurrences are all happening before my eyes. Things to enjoy, challenges to be met and rote things to be done can all be further experiences to help me learn and grow in this life. But I must face them all, head on, without spending undue time trying to walk forward while staring backward.

Like most opportunities to learn, this one is a process for me. There are times when I wonder how I could have ever stumbled by looking back, and there are times when I wonder if I will ever get my focus back to where it needs to be.

God, in His mercy, is always ready to guide me back into His light. He will minister to my heart regarding those things in the past that vie for attention when they have already been forgiven by Him. When I live this out, I avoid many unpleasant bumps to my noggin.

As for Violet, I guess I will just have to be diligent for her as I remind myself that some of her lumps on the head have helped me avoid some of my own!

How about you? I’d love to hear how you have dealt/deal with the thoughts of the past as you try to navigate the present.

Be blessed and be a blessing,

Pastor Chuck