Sometimes pruning can unbind us from the past, freeing us for the future

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Today, I want to draw our attention toward the past. There are many aspects of “the past” that God wants to prune so that we can bear fruit in the future. So, to be more specific, I want to wonder if the Vine-grower wants to prune some places where we experience regret.

If we’ve done some awful things in the past, some level of regret is warranted. We should feel sad or disappointed if we let people down or failed to act in ways that were faithful to God. It’s a good thing to feel some level of guilt or remorse. God can use such feelings for good!

However, it can be extremely detrimental if we get stuck ruminating on how things could have gone differently. If we wallow in regret, it is sure to obstruct our capacity to bear fruit in the emerging Kingdom. When we focus too much on what we could have done better in the past, we foreclose on what we can do in the present and future.

If anyone had reason to regret his past, it was Paul. He persecuted the church and oversaw the killing of Jesus-followers. He was zealous in all sorts of things that were anti-Christ. How could he not regret his past?

Philippians 3 records some of his thoughts on the matter. After listing the ways he formerly acted, he writes about wanting to “know Christ” and “gain Christ,” and he says:

Friends, I don’t consider that I have made it my own; but this one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead, I press on towards the goal for the prize of the heavenly call of God in Christ Jesus. — Philippians 3:13-14

Since he just listed these unfaithful behaviors, one thing is clear: he has not forgotten about them. Yet, that’s the word he uses. What does he mean? 

It seems that he’s saying that he leaves them in the past. He doesn’t get stuck, wallowing in regret. Instead, he sees how God is using these very things to pave the path for his current and future ministry. And then, just a few verses later, he invites us to do the same: “join in imitating me” (Phil. 3:17).

We, too, can reframe our past so that we can move into a future full of God’s intentions. There is certainly a role for remorse, but if we wallow in regret, we are not making room for redemption. God wants to redeem our past so that we can move on—so that we can strain forward to what lies ahead.


TODAY’s REFLECTION: Are there areas of your life where you ruminate about what could have been different??  What would it look like to surrender just one of them to the pruning shears of our Redeemer? How could He turn an area of regret into a fruit-bearing ministry of the future?

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