That was yesterday
"No one having put his hand to the plow, and looking back, is fit for the kingdom of God."
- Luke 9:62
"....but 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 3:13b_14
By BISHOP ROBERT E. HAYES JR.
The Eskimos of Alaska have a strange and unusual custom which deserves our attention in the first few weeks of this new year. It seems that, quite often, violent disputes erupt between these competitive hunters. Arguments break out over issues such as hunting territory, food, possessions, and property. These disputes can become so embroiled that the shedding of blood is not uncommon.
However, custom dictates that, before the sun sets, any disagreement taking place that day must be settled. In other words, nothing is carried over into the next day. Two Eskimos who had been fighting viciously the previous day would be like brothers when you saw them the following day. And if you questioned them about the dispute that had divided them, they would reply, "But that was yesterday!"
I share this bit of information with you today because it contains a lesson we need to take with us as we journey into 2006.
In looking back over what has been, no doubt we'll all discover we have been involved in our share of disputes. Everyone has encountered more than enough problems as well. And if disputes and problems aren't struggle enough, include the failures and missed opportunities we can all recall. These are a part of life, and no one, regardless of who you are and what you do, is immune from them.
However, even though these are a part of everyone's life, they need not be the focus of the coming year. Somehow, we-like the Eskimos of Alaska-must learn to say: "But that was yesterday!"
Carrying our disputes, grudges, hatreds and heartaches of the past into 2006 would be like taking excess baggage on a trip. It weighs us down and wears us out.
At some point, we must let go of the past. We must draw the line between what was and what will be. Somewhere, we must make the distinction between what happened yesterday and what will happen tomorrow.
It seems to me there is no better time to do this than at the close of one year and the beginning of another.
That's why it is so important that we learn to say: "That was yesterday." When we brood over the past, we weaken ourselves with regrets, self_contempt, and remorse.
What we are called to do is learn from the past-our mistakes, our problems, our disputes, missed opportunities-and use that knowledge to build on the future.
Sad indeed is the person who has not learned from the experiences of yesterday. He or she is forced to relive it in all of its misery and gloom.
It is only when we can forget those things which are behind and press forward that we are able to make this journey into the new year a meaningful and productive one. We can no more afford to look backward than a farmer can as he plows his field.
Writing to the church at Philippi, the Apostle Paul reminded those early Christians that his one goal in life was to forget about yesterday.
This one thing I do, he wrote, is to forget those things that are behind me, and press forward to those things which are before me.
And so must we.
If we are to make this journey of ours successful and enriching, we must be willing to leave behind that which drags us down and hinders us from doing God's will.
Provisions for the road
As we enter the unknown territory of 2006, I would like to give you a short list of items you will need for the journey ahead. I want to provide you with words that will help you maintain your balance during slippery times, with a message that will help you maintain your sanity in a world that seems to be going insane.
Here are several "prescriptions" you will need to pack as we set out:
First and foremost, take one day at a time. It's advice we've all heard before-but have we really used it? Stop worrying about what the next day will bring. God gives us one day's grace to meet one day's trouble.
Secondly, do what is just and good. This is timeless advice. Treat people like you want to be treated. Let your word be your bond. Sow seeds of goodness and goodwill, and you will reap a life free of distrust, greed, and deception.
Third, show constant love. There is a beautiful song with a line in it that asks: "Did you know that love is in need of love today?" Well, it's true. We need to learn once again how to love our mothers and fathers, our sisters and brothers, our children, and all humankind. We have forgotten the definition of the most powerful word in our language, and unless we show constant love in our dealings with each other, love will be in need of love.
Lastly, walk humbly with your God. Go to God, confess your wrongs, and ask for forgiveness of your sins. Seek God's help in trying to make this year better than last year, and invite Jesus Christ into your life to stay permanently-not just for a season, not just for a day. Get to know God as your best friend, your closest ally, and when troubles that are sure to come do just that, you'll have a friend indeed.
Take two doses of this prescription daily, and call me in the morning.