“For I know the plans I have for you,’ declares the Lord, ‘plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.” (Jeremiah 29:11)
My first attempt at ploughing a field was –in the words borrowed from football reviews– a “humiliating defeat.” The farmer not only stood at the field edge to watch but gathered a group of the lads with him to add a little je-ne-sais-quoi to the potent pressure of low-self-esteem, nervousness and embarrassment.
I started well, but as soon as I looked back to see if the furrows were straight, I lost my line, and frantically over-corrected, to the extent that it looked like I was trying to create a series of mysterious crop circles.
Not a happy memory.
So I understand Paul’s reminder about “forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead,” (Philippians 3:13). And, of course, Jesus warned a would-be disciple that, “No one who puts his hand to the plough and looks back is fit for the kingdom of God,” (Luke 9:62).
That is to say, there’s a tricky balance to be maintained, between checking where you’ve come from, and seeing where you’re going.
If you look back too much –as I did– then a kind of paralysis ensues. The Old Testament contains the stern warning of Lot’s wife who “looked back” (Genesis 19:26) and became immobilised, so to speak, and fatally unable to proceed.
And so, in one sense, there has to be a real breaking with the past, in order that you take hold of what God is doing and where He is leading. As Isaiah said, “Remember not the former things, nor consider the things of old. Behold, I am doing a new thing; now it springs forth…” (Isaiah 43:18-19).
And so we arrive at the lovely and familiar verse here. God has plans for you. God has a “hopeful future,” but it involves letting go of the past, of not dwelling on it, and moving forward.
Give me wisdom here Lord, as I make decisions based on what I understand of your plans for me. I don’t want to get stuck in the past, but I want to be looking forward to where you are leading.