In my previous post, “Refitting Your Life for Retirement” I listed some things I was experiencing in retirement. In point number 4, I noted that I was doing a lot of reflecting and pondering over my life and career. When I broke age 60, I started reflecting on questions like, “Have I wasted my life?”; “Did I miss God’s queues along the way?”; “What will my future be like?”; “Did I do the best I could?” and regrets, things I would do differently, things I was sorry for, failures and sins.
As my retirement date came and passed, these reflections seemed to be re-energized. Some answers and insights have brought me joy, gratitude and new meaning. Others occasionally keep me up at night. I have received (out of God’s blue) notes from persons who were blessed by God through my ministry that have encouraged me.
In my moving through the pondering, I found several passages of scripture that have reminded me that God is still at work in my life, and I will always be a work in progress with God. I can rejoice and praise God for the good stuff. I can learn from the other stuff and let it go. Here is what I have found helpful.
- In Philippians 3:13, Paul describes how he deals with the not so good stuff of his past. He doesn’t dismiss it or treat it as insignificant or excuse it. He doesn’t let it be a show stopper for moving into God’s future for him. Our past is never too big of a mountain for God to move.
- Philippians 1:6 reminds me that God doesn’t give up on me.
- I John 1:1-2 and I John 1:9 assure me that God forgives my sins.
- In the Gospels, Jesus consistently gives people another chance, and shows how they are loved and valued by God. In his loving forgiveness, there is also the admonition: ”Don’t do it again.”
At times I took shortcuts that seemed right at the time, but weren’t. I’ve made decisions out of selfish motives. I took the easy way because I didn’t want to take the hard way. I did dumb things, not thinking about consequences. These things are part of being human and being a sinner. I also believe that many times, I tried to make the best decisions with what I knew at the time.
At times, the light of my thinking and remembering these things is like the shadow of a flash light, illuminating a small area, and creating large, threatening shadows. It is easy for my pondering to lead me to a place where I diminish God’s power and love for my life, and give it more power than God. I can’t undo. I can’t redo.
I believe that the light on my reflecting should be the light of the radiant forgiving love of God in Christ, dispelling shadows, bringing clarity, and offering new life. I can do one of two things. I can sit and stew in memories or move forward. I believe God wants me, and all of us to move forward. Sometimes moving forward is easy. At other times, it’s like pulling a skiff across a mud flat with a wet rope. Even then, the bigger set of hands pulling with yours is God’s. His hands don’t tire, weaken, slip or get blisters.
So my pondering serves as fuel for faith. It creates substance for confession. It is a reality check on my humanity with its strengths and limitations. It strengthens my trust in God. It reminds me of my dependency on God. At times, it brings me to my knees. It is a source of praise and thanksgiving to God. It becomes a course correction in life.
The key to preventing our reflecting on the past from becoming emotional and psychological prison cell, keeping us from living into God’s future is to take God at his word. Trust God to keep his promises. Let any sorrow be a Godly sorrow that leads to repentance, or a commitment to change with God’s help. Let God work the past to create a future that brings him glory.
One last thought on confession. There is an illustration attributed to Corrie ten Boom, based on Micah 7:19 that goes something like this. God has taken our sins, gathered them up into a ball, and thrown it out into the depths of the sea. He has posted a sign saying, “NO FISHING”.
In my next post, figuring out what’s next.