Not that I have already obtained this or have already reached the goal; but I press on to make it my own, because Christ Jesus has made me his own. 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, I press on toward the goal for the prize of the heavenly call of God in Christ Jesus. Let those of us then who are mature be of the same mind; and if you think differently about anything, this too God will reveal to you. Only let us hold fast to what we have attained.
Brothers and sisters, join in imitating me, and observe those who live according to the example you have in us. For many live as enemies of the cross of Christ; I have often told you of them, and now I tell you even with tears. Their end is destruction; their god is the belly; and their glory is in their shame; their minds are set on earthly things. But our citizenship is in heaven, and it is from there that we are expecting a Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ. He will transform the body of our humiliation that it may be conformed to the body of his glory, by the power that also enables him to make all things subject to himself.
I know that all of us live in an age that puts great stock in originality. We prize original thinkers. We prize original artists. We prize original people of every sort and condition. But surely most of who we have managed to become as persons lies largely in the realm of imitation. We learned to walk and talk by imitating the grownups around us. We learned to write by imitating our teachers. We learned how to live by imitating the people we looked up to and admired. So, a whole lot can depend then on who we decide to imitate.
In this little piece from Philippians, St. Paul asks us to imitate him. And that is a tall order for ordinary people like ourselves. But can you imagine what your life might be like if you were to imitate his example when it comes this thing of “forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead”?
Sometimes, looking backwards and living and reliving all the things that we’ve done and left undone can steal our life. Sometimes, regret over the way things have turned out or bitterness over the wrongs we’ve suffered or remembering the dreams that have not come true can steal the light from life.
Paul had lots to regret. He had spent a long, long time going down a bitter, deadly path. But he decided to set his eyes, not on the person he once was, but on the person he will one day become. He believed that, in the end, he is going to be transformed into the image of the One he loves. So, against all odds, he forgets all the rest and strains toward that beautiful vision. What would life be like if we decided to imitate him and live like that?
Lord Jesus, help me to leave behind what is dead and gone in my life. For your love’s sake, help me to forget what needs to be forgotten. Help me to remember what needs to be remembered. Give me enough strength to strain always upward, toward the person you mean me to be. Amen.