Forgetting the past isn't such a big deal these days. Geezerhood comes equipped with an automatic sensor that momentarily deletes things along the way. I'll go repetitive and share what someone told me a few years ago, again---
The human brain is like a bucket. From the moment of birth throughout life we put
things into that bucket. At some point in time the bucket becomes full and memories
start falling out. What falls out first in what was put in there last. That's why we can't
remember what we had for breakfast this morning but we can remember a common
event that happened 60 years ago. Yuk! Yuk! And true.
It's one of the new guessing games those of us in the senior adult cohort get to play---doing the multiple choice options of why we walked into a room or what was on the grocery list. Still, the elusive answers usually pop into view as we recite the alphabet or scroll through the notes on our mobile phone. Now, what was that password?
Whether or not we can actually forget something is a matter of debate among the experts in the neuroscience department. The confusion about where the past fits into our life plan is equally perplexing. Our Christian worldview and the eternal promises of God compel us to lean forward in life, a preference for the joys and blessings that await us. In the same way we know that the past offers us educational advantages. We can value the past because it is our teacher. But, then, there are Scriptures about forgetting the past. Make note of what the Apostle Paul wrote to the Philippians---
Brothers, I do not consider that I have made it my own. But one thing I do: forgetting
what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead, I press on toward the goal
for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.
Philippians 3: 13-14, ESV
This instruction caused me some confusion several years ago when trying to get a handle on the influences of past, present, and future on my pastoral calling and church service. At first glance the Apostle's words seemed contradictory---commands to forget the past, which I thought was my teacher, while straining forward toward the goal of the upward call of God. It puzzled me that I should value the past because of its learning potential but still fughedaboutit (forgive my slang). The straining toward the goal part made perfect sense because our basic orientation should be one of leaning forward.
That's when I did the word study around the Greek term the Apostle used to define the act of "forgetting". It's not all that complicated. He used a compound word built around the Greek word "lambano", Strong's Concordance # 2983. It means "to take", or "to take up with the hand", or "to take up a thing to be carried". Forgetting the past isn't about erasing it, eliminating it, or changing it. They are all virtually impossible for us humans except maybe when we reach our golden years. Forgetting the past in the Philippians passage is about taking it hand and moving it out of the way so that the past doesn't impede our forward movement. Paul's word portray a conscious, deliberate, personal decision to prevent the past from being an obstacle to our spiritual progress. Lay hands on that troubling stuff back there, move it out of out path, and leave it over there. The past can still teach us from that angle.
There are many other Bible passages that encourage this same thought. Isaiah 43: 18-19 is one example---
Remember not the former things, nor consider the things of old. Behold, I am doing a
new thing; now it springs forth, do you not perceive it? I will make a way in the
wilderness and rivers in the desert.
Isaiah 43: 18-19, ESV
Surely God didn't want his people to forget the miracles of the Exodus, how he delivered them from peril during forty years in the wilderness, his guiding them to the Land of Promise. No. God didn't want them to worship their past and miss the joys of the new thing he was doing.
It's a lesson we've stopped teaching in the past couple of generations. We've become so egocentric and self-serving we won't move those things that are distasteful to us out of way and leave them over there. So, we de-face things of value to other people, destroy monuments and memorials that mean something to many fellow citizens, and lose our traction in forward movement toward the glorious promises God has made to us.
Forget the past? Sure. It just means to take those troublesome past events in your hands, move them out of the way, and leave them over there out of your path forward.