Woodshed Wisdom

By Freeman Martin

When’s the last time you forgot something? Come on, be straight with me. If you’re over 40, can you go 12 hours without forgettin’ somethin’? I ran up on James, my best (and only) brother-in-law in the grocery store the other day. He was just zipping up and down every aisle. And I guess he thought I looked bumfuzzled and bewildered standing there in the middle of the aisle staring into space. And I probably did. So, in a nice and helpful way, he said, ‘Did you forget what you came for?’ I wanted to come up with something cute. But I’ve forgotten how.

There was a time when I would have said, ‘Nope, had it all written in the palm of my hand. But when I went to the restroom and washed my hands, my list went down the drain.’ But, without waitin’ for my answer, which was painfully obvious anyway, James whips this little piece of notepad paper out of his shirt pocket. And, as if he had discovered a cure for the common cold, he proudly proclaimed, ‘That’s why you need one of these!’ 

I was too embarrassed to tell him that his sister, my darling bride, had carefully written me a list. But you wanna take a guess as to where it was? Yep, sticking right there on the front of the fridge where she put it. So I wouldn’t forget it!  So I’ve started using an excuse I heard somebody else use. I got sidetracked and lost my train of thought. I’m beginning to believe that my train not only got sidetracked but, truth be told, was probably derailed a long time ago. In fact, I’ve forgotten how long it’s been since I haven’t forgotten anything.

I can trace my forgettin’ stuff all the way back to growin’ up on the farm. For instance, after an extended session at the woodshed, Daddy would say, “I’ve told you a thousand times not to poke sticks in your little brothers’ eyes. Now, do you think you can remember this till supper time?” I wanted to say, “If I could remember it, I wouldn’t have to eat supper standing up!” But, fortunately, I had learned how to keep from acting like I had just fallen off the turnip truck. So, I just kept my mouth shut on questions like that.

But do you find it just a smidge on the odd side that we spend billions of dollars every year in this country on things to help us remember. And then we forget where we put the things that are supposed to help us remember. Or as my afore-mention darling bride would say, “Honey, would you please look in the trunk of my car and see if you can find my day runner?” Hello! It’s not doing you much good, is it? Don’t worry, I didn’t say that. I just thought it. And you’ll be proud to know that we were able to avoid a small ‘train-wreck’ at the house last night when I was able to restore her address book icon to the screen on her blackberry.

We have to-do lists, appointment books, and even electronic phone books that fit in our shirt pockets. We read something we want to remember and we use the highlighter. But most times I’ve forgotten where I put the highlighter! And how many different colors of sticky notes do you have in your car, at the office, or at home? I’ve had ‘em stuck on the dash of my car so long, they don’t stick anymore and just fall off and blow away.

Now I’m trying to remember what got me started thinkin’ about forgettin’. Oh, yeah, it was when I saw a guy practicing for the Tour de France on one of our country roads the other day. At least, I thought that’s what he was practicing for. He sure had all the right equipment. From his black tights to his matching gloves, knee pads, elbow protectors, and helmet. And would you believe it if I told you he had a tiny little rear-view mirror attached to his helmet! It looked like one of those little mirrors that my dentist uses to look at my jaw teeth.

And it was one of those bikes that have tires about the size of my little finger. It even had gears that the guy changed so he never had to get off and walk. I’m told the bikes are made out of aluminum or something that’s so light, the riders can pick ‘em with up with their little finger. Sure wish we’d had a bicycle like that back home at Route 4. Especially when it was my turn to push it back up the hill from the creek.

But the most amazin’ thing about this professional bicycle was that it had two rear view mirrors on the handlebars. One on each side. I turned around and looked and there weren’t any more riders following him. But I guess in a big bike race it’s important to look back and see who’s behind you.

This is just me, but I think there are some times when it’s OK to get good at forgettin’ what’s behind us. If that guy on the bike was runnin’ a marathon, I’ll bet he wouldn’t be as concerned about the road behind him as much as he was about the finish line in front of him. And the closer he gets to the line, the harder he tries to reach it. Regardless of what’s behind him.

Paul must have been a runner, because he sure had some words of wisdom about runnin’ this race we call life. When you have a few un-distracted minutes, sit down with Philippians 3:12-14, and give these two verses your undivided attention.

Paul admits right up front that he’s not perfect. Far from it. Just like you and me. He had made some big mistakes in his life. Like torturin’ and killin’ good Christian folks. But after Paul got his eyesight back, he realized how blind he had been. Once God got his attention, Paul had his vision set on one thing. Forget what was behind and press on toward the goal line. Because that’s where the prize was. In front of him, not behind him. And the prize was eternal life in Heaven.

Look at the life-changing words in verse 13. Paul told the brethren that he certainly wasn’t where he wanted to be, but there was one thing that he was doing that helped him run his race. And maybe that one thing Paul was doing can give you and me the freedom to break the chains of the past. And I believe his one thing was a four-parter:

1. He was gettin’ good at forgettin’ what was behind. No rear view mirrors for him. Where we’ve been is not important. Jesus just wants to know where we want to go.

2. He was straining toward what was ahead. Forward focused. When we make mistakes, as we all do every day, just be sure we’re leaning forward.

3. Paul said that he was pressin’ on. Keepin’ the goal in front of us of getting’ to Heaven through righteous living here on earth will help us fight through the doubts, detours, and distractions as we run our race.

4. Focus on the finish. Paul’s only thought was headin’ for the goal line to get the prize that God has reserved for him and all of us through the gift of His only begotten son’s life.

Getting’ good at forgettin’ means we believe with all our heart, mind, body, and soul that yesterday is history; tomorrow is a mystery; but today is a gift. That’s why they call it the present. A gift of 1,440 minutes. If we spend 480 of those minutes sleeping, we’re left with 960. Will we spend most of those worryin’ about the past? Or maybe follow Paul’s advice and get good at forgettin’, which will help us remember that the goal line is never behind us, only ahead of us.

In the race of life, forward progress won’t be found by  lookin’ in our rear view mirror.