At the dawn of a new decade, I am sorely tempted to jump on the bandwagon and offer yet another passionate exhortation regarding the importance of viewing the future with “20/20 Vision,” emphasizing the need to see what lies before us as clearly and accurately as possible. As timely and appropriate as such a message may be, I will leave it to others to deliver it for now.
What has captured my attention most consistently in recent days, however, is the nagging reality that many of us may find ourselves in a position at this point in time where we cannot begin to imagine what new and life-giving possibilities may lie ahead of us because we feel hopelessly stuck with what we are dragging behind us. And that reminds me of a story.
Mark Engel, a fellow pastor and Malone University grad, once played catcher on the college baseball team. As Mark tells it, there was a point early in his college career when he was going through an unusually tough time at the plate and on the field. No matter how hard he tried, he just couldn’t seem to find a way to turn things around. At one point during baseball practice, Coach Bob Starcher called Mark aside and offered the following words of wisdom (my paraphrase):
“Mark, you are a very talented baseball player, but you are so preoccupied with what happened on the last play that you miss the opportunity to make the most of the next one. Maybe it’s time to quit obsessing over what is in the rearview mirror and start focusing on what is in the windshield.”
According to Mark, this providential encounter with Coach Starcher on the baseball field at Malone University became a defining moment, not only in his athletic career, but in his entire Christian life and ministry. He referred to this paradigm shift as “windshield living.”
My guess is that this is a life lesson all of us can relate to on some level. It is easy to let our past experiences consume our attention to the point that we become blind to the new and life-giving opportunities that are right in front of us. We are all in need of the Lord’s healing of those painful memories that, left unattended, always seem to find a way of stealing our joy and hijacking our hope.
This was a central theme in the Apostle Paul’s life story as well. As one who turned to Christ after many years of fierce opposition to the gospel, Paul experienced a radical paradigm shift in his entire outlook on life. As a result, he seemed to have a heightened awareness of the continual need to release these painful memories and allow the Lord to redeem them in order to move forward on his ongoing journey with Jesus:
“One thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus” (Philippians 3:13-14, NIV).
It’s a new year and a new decade, my friends. A whole new world is just waiting to be explored. New and life-giving opportunities to love and to be loved have been set before us by our good and beautiful God. Contrary to what we typically hear in the latest news reports, the Lord is still on his throne, and the best is yet to come.
But we won’t be able to move forward into this new way of life until we are ready and willing to leave behind those old, self-defeating, worn out ways of life that hold us hostage. It may be helpful to check the rear view mirror every once in a while – to be reminded of where we have been, to appreciate the lessons we have learned, and to give thanks for all that the Lord has done for us along the way – but if we have any hope of entering into the new and living way that has been opened for us through the grace and mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ, we must keep our eyes fixed on the road ahead of us, eagerly anticipating and actively preparing for the new opportunities that are waiting right around the corner.
“Windshield living” is much more than a fancy catch phrase. It’s the secret of Christian discipleship.
“Friends, don’t get me wrong: By no means do I count myself an expert in all of this, but I’ve got my eye on the goal, where God is beckoning us onward—to Jesus. I’m off and running, and I’m not turning back” (Philippians 3:13-14, MSG).
– David O. Williams, Lead Superintendent