“…this one thing I do, forgetting those things which are behind, and reaching forth unto those things which are before, I press toward the mark for the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus.” Philippians 3:13-14 KJV
At this time of the year most people are reflective. It’s a time for making resolutions or plans to be better, do better and feel better about our lives. OK, so it’s week three. How’s it going so far? What’s it gonna take to successfully make these changes? There are all kinds of goal setting techniques that are available and have value but I would like to share one from the Apostle Paul that perhaps many have not considered.
In a letter to the church in Philippi, Paul includes the above guidance. He refers to it as “one thing” but upon closer examination we find that it is two actions, “forgetting” and “pressing”. These two actions done at the same time create a tension and it is by living successfully in this tension that Paul achieved his spiritual goal. Thus he recommends it for us also. I believe it has a broader application than just spiritual.
In order to successfully press toward and accomplish our goals it is important that we also learn to leave some things behind, like failures or regrets. Sometimes we need to let go of our successes. Reliving how good you used to be can sometimes rob you of what you need to be the best that you can be in the present and in the future.
Have you ever asked yourself why you keep repeating the same set of self-defeating behaviors? Could it be that you are acting upon a memory that is so deep seated that you don’t even consciously recall it? During my chaplaincy training (CPE), my supervisor identified one such behavior in me and challenged me to fix it. I used to defer my authority to other authority figures in the room. He wanted me to own my role as the Chaplain, a peer equal on the multidisciplinary care team. The reflective process led me to a phrase my father repeated during my puberty and teen years, “There’s only one man in here.” Dad meant no harm by this. He just wanted me to know who the boss was. But unknown to him or me by repetition, this phrase was etched into my subconscious and had taught me that everybody else was the man except me. When I faced this memory and dealt with it, I became the man.
“Forgetting and pressing”, living intentionally in this tension will help us accomplish our goals.
Be a blessing.
Mark A. Stoddart, M.Div.
Administrative Director for Spiritual Wellness
Shawnee Mission Medical Center