“Beloved, I do not consider that I have made it my own; but this one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead...”
— PHILIPPIANS 3:13 (NRSV)
Our spiritual progress in the faith relies upon how we are running our race in the present moment; how we are placed; the direction we are directed. It isn’t any good to us to look sideways, or to look behind in comparison. Taking our eyes off the prize—that heavenly finish line—is fraught with danger and is a certainty for a stumble, and the risk of an ungainly fall.
We run our race like an Olympic runner, with memory of all the sacrifice it has taken, over a long and winding four-year period, to get here and to be running the race. We don’t focus on the memory, but the memory does push us onward and ever upward. We know the cost. We understand how much this means. The memory is the basis of our present fortitude. All of what we have become is harnessed in the instant, but we cannot afford to look back whilst the race is in progress. There is too much at risk to lose for taking our eye off what is still in front of us.
We must keep forging onward toward the goal upon which we have been called.
The Classic Tortoise and Hare Fable
We presumably all know this one. The hare is so overconfident he is found to be disabled ultimately by his pride. He thinks he can take it easy. He rests on the laurels of his former successes. He not only expects to win, in his mind he has already won, but the point is he is not doing the work of a winner.
The tortoise, on the other hand, knows that the best he can do is strive at the best pace he can. He doesn’t bother looking back at the hare, because he knows his only chance is to keep plodding on forward. His plodding approach is a testament to his faith.
And, according to a new book I recently acquired, I found that the tortoise usually wins. Perhaps the tortoise thinks not of a glittering career of races won, but he is focused on the race he is in—his focus is the present.
Placing Our Memories in Context
The memories of our training ground experiences have forged who we have become—they are significant; but only in the context that they have brought us this far. They can’t have any direct benefit in energising the present stride, but if for any reason such reflection would assist we would go there in an instant.
The fact of the matter is this: because we are fallen creatures we are susceptible to a lack of focus; as our concentration wavers we begin to take our eye off the finishing line.
It can only do us harm to impair our focus, but if we are focused we can grow spiritually.
It’s surprising how often the tortoise wins in this game of life, where blessing is afforded the consistent person. The spiritually diligent tend to have staying power, whereas the ‘champion of faith’ with their impressive exploits may stumble and fall. Consistency is better than comparison.
© 2013 S. J. Wickham.