I believe that life should move forward. Our life should not be just circling around, going nowhere.
Once I got lost in the woods. For an hour, I walked and walked, thinking I was going somewhere. But I realized that I was circling around. I came back to the same place over and over again. That was scary.
Sometimes we feel that our life is circling around, going nowhere. I am sure that was what the Israelites felt when they wandered in the wilderness for 40 years. Feeling stuck, feeling that your life is circling around – that is a sense of helplessness and many people live with this sense of helplessness. They feel powerless to change anything. Everything seems to be already determined for them and there is nothing they can do to change anything. Helplessness and powerlessness. It is one of the most common symptoms of modern life. No sense of direction, no sense of purpose, no sense of fulfillment. Like the myth of Sisyphus, you push a boulder up a mountain, only to see it roll down again. Life of meaningless repetition with no change.
Some people say that it is a fact of life. They say that we cannot do anything about it. That’s what life is. They give up expecting any changes. To me, that is a very unchristian and unspiritual attitude. Jesus clearly said our life can change. He compared our life with the kingdom of God that changes.
Change is Possible
The kingdom of heaven is like a mustard seed that someone took and sowed in his field; it is the smallest of all the seeds, but when it has grown it is the greatest of shrubs and becomes a tree, so that the birds of the air come and make nests in its branches. (Matthew 13:31, 32)
Change is possible even if we have faith the size of a mustard seed.
He said to them, ‘Because of your little faith. For truly I tell you, if you have faith the size of a mustard seed, you will say to this mountain, “Move from here to there”, and it will move; and nothing will be impossible for you.’ (Matthew 17:20)
The problem is not in the fact that there can be no change in life but that we don’t have faith even the size of a mustard seed.
Yes, I agree that sometimes we have to accept our situations. We can’t just complain about our situations and live constantly in dissatisfaction and anger. But accepting our situation does not mean just sitting around, doing nothing.
We can always change. We can always become better. We can always move forward. Yes, change is hard. Real change is rare. We see a lot of pseudo changes. We don’t see real changes around us. So I understand that people are skeptical about change.
But my friend, God is with us. With God, change is possible. God is the agent of change. God always creates. God always renews. God always restores. In other words, God always changes. Changes us, changes our life, changes the world. That’s how God wants us to live, making changes. God wants us to go beyond where we are.
The Heavenly Call
We heard St. Paul’s beautiful words about change today.
I press on towards the goal for the prize of the heavenly call of God in Christ Jesus. (Philippians 3:14)
His life was not just sitting where he was. He was pressing on. Korean translation is interesting – 달려 가노라. Running towards the goal. He didn’t stay where he was. He pursued towards the goal. Nobody forced him to do so. He found his self-worth. He realized that he was worth so much more than he could just settle for. That’s why he pursued to become better. His life was too precious to just waste it away.
You have to remember that he didn’t write Philippians when his life was going well.
You know, when things are going well, it is easy to be positive. We feel like we can do anything. We can have a very positive attitude about making changes. We feel empowered.
But when things are not going very well, it is hard to push ourselves. We just want to dig a hole and hide. Never come out of the hole.
Paul’s situation was not that great. When he wrote these words in Philippians, he was in prison. Not only was he in prison, his fellow believers attacked him and spread false rumours about Paul. But Paul did not dig a hole and hide. He pressed on. He didn’t focus on his gloomy reality and sat there in self-pity. He pressed on towards the goal.
How could he do that?
What was pulling his life?
What enabled him to press on?
He had a strong sense of calling about his life. He saw his life as calling.
I press on towards the goal for the prize of THE HEAVENLY CALL of God in Christ Jesus. (Philippians 3:14)
It’s like his sense of purpose and meaning. That kept him going. To him, calling was his purpose of existence.
That was what Nietzsche said:
He who has a why to live for can bear almost any how. (Nietzsche)
“A why to live for” is calling.
When you have a strong sense of calling, you will not easily give up. You will pursue. Because the moment you stop pursuing, you stop living. The moment you give up trying to become better, you might as well be dead.
Calling is not a static concept. You may not be able to articulate what your calling is right away. That’s Ok. When you don’t give up and constantly pursue your passion, your calling becomes clearer. You realize that there is a theme in your life. You realize that your life is moving in a certain direction.
That was what St. Paul realized too.
Not that I have already obtained this or have already reached the goal; but I press on to make it my own… (Philippians 3:12)
St. Paul also admitted that the search for his calling was not finished. He is in the process of finding it and living it out.
Leave the Past Behind
ANOTHER THING that helped him pursue his goal was this.
…this one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead. (Philippians 3:13)
He was able to let go of his past. “…forgetting what lies behind…” Often, we cannot go forward because our past holds us back. Our old habits. Our old pattern that has shaped and moulded us. Fear of letting go of the old.
Joybell, a writer – she said this.
We can’t be afraid of change. You may feel very secure in the pond that you are in, but if you never venture out of it, you will never know that there is such a thing as an ocean, a sea. Holding onto something that is good for you now, may be the very reason why you don’t have something better.
― C. JoyBell C.
We cannot easily forget what lies behind. It is not an easy task. Our past constantly comes up and haunts us. We realize that we don’t have power not only to change our past but also to forget it. It sounds good to forget our past and move on. But that is one of the most difficult things for us to do. We say that our past is a good teacher. But we realize our past is more of a ghost that haunts us than a good teacher that teaches us.
We need God’s help. We need God’s forgiveness. Somebody said forgiveness cannot change our past but it can change our future. We need to be able to leave our past in God’s hands. That is faith. When Paul said, “forgetting what lies behind…”, it is his faith speaking, not his will.
Daily we need to let go of our day in God’s hands. We have to realize that our life is in God’s hands. Then we can face tomorrow’s challenges. This has to be a daily routine. At the end of the day, let go of what happened on that day in God’s hands. And refocus on the calling of God and face tomorrow.
God will break down our old habits and mould us into a new self. Then we can go beyond.