But the hour is coming, and now is, when the true worshippers will worship the Father in spirit and truth; for the Father is seeking such to worship Him.
– John 4:23
One of the greatest temptations in our lives, as people in the world and as people in Christ, is to look back. And while other temptations may fade over time, this one nagging urge actually gets more powerful, more of an itch that feels the need to be scratched—because as we get older, our past stretches out further behind us. There’s more to see, a weight of experience that waits behind us to be noticed, and not all of it pleasant.
There’s value in appreciating the journey you’ve taken to get to where you are today, not least in allowing you to take stock of the journey still ahead of you. But past mistakes and errors of judgement can be difficult to shake off as we travel further from where they were born. The temptation, then, is to allow those mistakes to walk just a few feet behind you, as traveling companions. We allow them to share our meals, our time with family and friends. When we live with the failures of the past, real and perceived, we bring them with us into our present, and take them onward into our future.
With this comes the tendency to attempt to avoid consequence for those failures, those mistakes, and the denial of forgiveness. Christ’s sacrifice, his covenant with us, is a broad and generous gift. It doesn’t have any boundaries, any caveats, any terms and conditions—but we have to accept it for ourselves in order for it to have a positive, powerful effect in and on our lives. Accepting forgiveness from Christ for the mistakes in our lives is a difficult proposition when we’re not prepared to leave those mistakes behind us, to accept consequence and responsibility and then move on. Responsibility is not the same as blame, and forgiveness denies the need for guilt.
The fact is, God sees who we are now and who we will be. Even as He sees all things at all times, whomever, wherever and whenever, He’s still always gazing forwards…and He’s only interested in the past when it makes a good story. God is invested in the relationship between the present us and the future us, and is committed to making those two people meet. He’s looking forward to it! We owe it to Him and to ourselves to follow suit.
With God always facing forwards, and our charge to stand alongside Him and do likewise, our spirituality cannot help but be prophetic in nature. It’s prophetic by definition, an evolution of promise, because the propulsive movement forward towards the future that God has planned for us is an ongoing thing. Once we have reached one objective, God curls an arm around us, congratulates us warmly, and then points ahead of us at something—someone—barely seen and says, “That’s next. Let’s go and say hi.”
We need to acknowledge the journey that’s brought us to this point. We need to accept that, for many of us, it’s been a long, hard road. It’s a powerful thing, to own our past. As we stand where we are, we can give thanks for that road we’ve left behind us, for what God has done to get us where we needed to be. That’s our testimony, a sketched outline of how we came to be who we are in Christ and in the Spirit. But our testimony isn’t just a record of our experiences to date. It’s a mission statement for our future, a joyful acceptance of the journey so far and the journey still to come. Testimony is rejoicing. There’s no place in it for guilt, for blame, for the silent, accusing companion on the road. God’s asked us to leave that travelling companion behind and walk with Him instead.
God is only interested in the past when it makes a good story, and if the story we have to tell isn’t a good one, then we’re not reading it the same way as He is. Accept where you’ve been. Enjoy where you are now. Look forward to where you’re going. Squint against the sun. Shade your eyes. There’s a better version of you waiting just ahead, and the best of all possible road trip companions to walk shoulder to shoulder with you as you walk to greet them.