Hello GRC –
A common question this time of year is “How’s your summer been?” The past tense fits the date on the calendar, the dim sky by 8pm, and the realization that school is right around the corner.
Given our stage of family-life, Cedar’s and my answer along the lines of “It’s been a great summer” is really all about simple time together as a family of five. We realize that very soon – possibly next summer – one if not both of our older kids won’t be schlepping their dirty laundry back home and eating all of the good leftovers and snacks for a few months. And so a “great summer” is defined by the simple appreciation of time WITH. The changes that are coming, will involve tears, but also the acceptance that this is part of “growing up.” One will graduate and, Lord-willing, find a job. Relationships with significant-others will influence staying “there” or coming home for one more season. We’ve already had moments of grieving the loss of what has been – 5 around the dinner table, each in our right spot contributing unique habits, words, and presence to the mix that’s just right because it’s our family. The grief also involves feeling for our youngest who will navigate his later teen years without siblings around.
We’ll all lose what we’ve cherished. We’ll each be tempted to yearn for what once was: a stage of life, a great job, a special home, maybe “that garden” you just loved. But a life of discipleship – of following in the footsteps of the Savior, of being shaped into His likeness – only involves certain ”backward glances.” It’s mostly forward-aimed.
What are the certain backward glances? First, remembering God’s promises and acts in Scripture which reinforce our trust that God IS faithful. He has always been, and that reassures us that He will continue to be. For a perfect Being, past performance IS a guarantee of future success! But the most necessary “backward glance” is a daily looking to the cross of Christ. His death was necessary because of My sin. It was complete because Jesus actually paid for my sin. It was not the final word, because Jesus walked out of that tomb! All of that means that through faith in Jesus, I’m forgiven! Set free! Made alive!
But most of a life of discipleship is forward-aimed. Listen to Paul from Philippians 3: “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.” (vv13-14). Paul uses language of athletic competition. Can you picture the runner in the lead, looking back over his shoulder, getting overtaken by the athlete who’s laser-focused on the finish line?
When you’re tempted to look backwards and dwell on your mess-ups, to wallow in shame/guilt, to regret decisions, to play shoulda-woulda-coulda… turn that positive by confessing sin and repenting (turning away), but then quickly direct your gaze to the cross. Rest in God’s love for you in Christ. And then, look ahead – to the promise of salvation-complete in Glory. “The one who calls you is faithful, and he will do it!” (1 Thessalonians 5:24).
By God’s grace, this summer Cedar and I enjoyed the present, and we trust that God will supply grace for our family’s future. The challenges ahead keep us prayerful, appreciative of Jesus-following kids, and “straining toward what is ahead” by using our time, energy and resources in this new and quickly changing life stage for the glory of the King, for the good of His people, and for the re-shaping of our hearts. We could fear how many ways our parenting-failures might impact our kids’ adult futures, but… Jesus has paid for that sin, and His Spirit and His Word will keep us pressing on toward the goal!
Peter Wang is the Senior Pastor at GRC.