The rear-view mirror is a great tool. It gives us a way to see what is behind us so we can use that information to make better decisions. For example, it helps us avoid pulling out in front of that speeding little red convertible weaving in and out of traffic.
Rear-view mirrors also provide insight into obstacles and dangers in those rare instances when we are forced to backup before we can start moving forward again. Despite its great value, however, the rear-view mirror was never purposed to hold our attention for long periods of time. Too much focus on the rear-view mirror can cause us to crash and stall our forward movement.
Through many years of counseling and coaching I have seen two future-killers pop-up more than all others combined. I’m not sure which one would win the top slot, but together, these dream busters have ruined countless lives. Interestingly, neither future-killer has anything to do with external factors or other people. They are each factors over which we have complete control.
Today, we consider the Rear-View Focus. One of the worst outcomes of pop-psychology is that it has taught our society to over-analyze the past. While there is value in understanding the road that got us where we are, over-analysis keeps us anchored in a past that we cannot change. Sure, there are times when we can reconcile painful relationships and we can – and should – always forgive; but short of amnesia, those memories will remain with us for as long as we live. Additionally, the ideal outcome of these situations is seldom if ever available.
The people of Israel have a long history of bad experiences: Slavery in Egypt; the very public disgrace of King David; the destruction of Jerusalem; slavery in Babylon, and much more. Still despite all these things, God said,
“Do not call to mind the former things, Or ponder things of the past. Behold, I will do something new, Now it will spring forth; Will you not be aware of it? I will even make a roadway in the wilderness, Rivers in the desert.” Isaiah 43:18-20 NASB
God knew if His people kept their focus on their many past hurts, pain, tragedies and failures, they would never be able to obtain all the promises and blessings He had for them. Why does He ask them, “Will you not be aware of it?” One might think that if something “new” is “springing up,” it would be obvious. But, it is not when our focus is on the rear-view mirror rather than on the good things that lie ahead.
So once you have prayed, forgiven, asked forgiveness and made amends for your part of the past hurts or mistakes, it is time to move on. Use the lessons learned to make better choices and avoid similar pitfalls in the future, but place your focus on what lies ahead and not on what lays behind. If I may borrow from the wisdom of the fictional Master Bra’tac – as relayed by the larger-than-life figure Teal’c from Stargate Atlantis,
“Draw from your past, but do not let your past draw from you.”