I live in a community of senior citizens and so my “community” is comprised of friends in the final laps of the race of life. I have noticed that there are two general types of seniors: the old grumpy ones and old happy ones.
The old grumpy ones are generally those who spend their hours looking back on their life and comparing their current circumstances to the past. For example, those with hip and or knee problems might recall with fondness back when they could jog or walk their dog without pain. Or, more commonly, they lament that they have become unimportant to their kids and grand-kids while they look back and recall when they were the most important person in their lives; or that they were some big “mucky muck” in their work. I see others with creeping dementia who become angry when they can’t recall something familiar; or, who see their mental faculties creeping away.
The old happy ones don’t focus on the past. They focus on the “right now” and the future.
I’m reminded of the story (wish I could find it again) of an elderly woman who’s daughter was moving her to an assisted living place. With trepidation, the daughter picked up her mother from the home where she had lived for over seventy years. Both knew that this would be last time that Mom would see the place. However, when they arrived at the tiny one room apartment at the assisted living facility, her Mom was happy and joyous. The daughter sat on the edge of the small bed with her Mom and reflected on how much she had lost: her husband of over fifty years, her vital career in business, her neighbor friends, much of her health, and not least of which: her mental faculties. Yet, her Mom sat there smiling and appearing happy. The daughter asked her Mom, “You seem happy Mom, why?”, Mom answered, “Well sweetie, I just love it, that’s why I’m happy.” Perplexed, the daughter probed deeper and suggested that Mom would miss all the things that had previously brought her happiness and so she was confused as to why Mom was so happy now when all those things were gone forever.
Mom took her daughter’s hand and said: “Honey, I know how much I have lost. But when you told me I had to move here into this small apartment, I made the decision that I was going to love it! I was not going to compare the apartment to what I had before because if I did, I would be miserable. So, I love it.”
The apostle Paul went further. He forced himself to “forget the past” and to “strain forward” to what lies ahead.
But one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead, 14 I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus. 15 Let those of us who are mature think this way,.. Philippians 2:14-15 ESV
Some thoughts on this section:
- Forgetting the past and straining to the future was the primary focus (the “one thing”) for Paul.
- He worked to forget the past, to let it go.
- He had a goal in mind that he strained forward for: the “prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus”
- He encourages those of who are mature (could that mean older?) to think this way.
- We learn to tell a joke by repeating it several times. We forget the joke if we don’t repeat it. The past, including the offenses from others, is the same. To forget the past, we don’t repeat it, either in our words or in our mind. Let the past go. Forget it!
- Our daily goal should be to look forward, toward the prize of life eternal with God in Jesus Christ. That’s where our thoughts and focus should be when tempted by our thoughts of the past.
- This has tremendous applications in relationships. We should forget the past hurts and pains inflicted on us by others. We should not verbally or mentally repeat them. We should work to forget them. In their place, we should think about eternity and life with our heavenly Father. Isn’t that far better?