January: Looking Forward, Not Backward

Happy New Year!

This is the time of year when most people look back at the past year.  Still, others are eagerly looking forward to what’s ahead.  Replaying the past contributes perspective. The past is tied to the present, and sometimes pulls on the future.  Janus is named the god of beginnings and is where the month of January gets its name from.  But I must tell you that Janus should be more concerned about looking forward than looking back for there is another God of beginnings but He is the One True God indeed.

The Apostle Paul stressed looking forward and pressing on to the high prize of our calling.  If you’re driving down a highway, it can be highly distracting if you continually look back.  It can even be fatal.  What is ahead is more critical than what is already behind us.  We can gauge the road and know where we are going from what was behind us, but it can not help us negotiate the road before us.  The past may help us when we reach a fork in the road, but looking back, there is only a linear line.  Like a driver with the aid of a rearview mirror, it can distract somewhat from the destination ahead.  But learning perspective from the past doesn’t necessarily prevent a repeat of history.  There is still that which lies ahead…it is your own unwritten history.  Life is linear but the end is a mystery to us all; except for God.

This race actually begins, not when you are born, but when you receive Christ and his gift of complete forgiveness. The race for me began many years ago. More than a beginning, it was also the starting gun of the race God set before me, and I’m still running that race!  But it’s not a sprint, it a marathon.  In Colossians 1:28,29 Paul uses the verb form of the noun race which translates “agonizomai” from which agonize comes from.  This is a God-given race, one that’s designed specifically for you and for me.  We do agonize but we never give up.  

I’m not intent on making the best time, only that I finish well.  There is a runner's laurel laid up for all who finish and its not reserved only for those who run the fastest. No two runners occupy the same lane and so we can run side by side others and cheer them on while being encouraged by others.  Running, like exercise, is more fun and rewarding when you are running together.  And you must leave your hands free.  No one, except at airports, runs with hands full of baggage.  

Things long ago, when I first started the race, seemed so sophisticated then, but now they appear quite naïve today.  Hindsight is not only 20-20 (dare I say sometimes 20-10?) but it can be brutally convicting.  Of one’s own actions or those of others, it can be as a blinder is to a horse.   In the physical sense human vision is less than 360 degrees, making it virtually impossible to look forward and backward at the same time like the god of Janus attempts to do.  But looking forward and backward is possible, when we do some mental gymnastics.   If someone’s driving and looking more in the rear view mirror than they are looking straight ahead, I think I would rather walk.  

In Roman mythology, Janus was a god of the gates, the doors, and god of beginnings.  The root of the word Janitor comes from the caregiver of the doorways, gateways and hallways (cleaning I take it).  Janus looks like he is meeting himself coming, while going.  He appears to be looking both forward and backward, simultaneously.  But spatially, this is impossible.  You don’t have to be a mythological god to want to look back and forward this time of year.  It seems almost overpowering in a way on New Year’s Day.  It really begins during the last week of the year, and peaks in earnest on New Year’s Eve.  There is power in contemplation, reorganization, and resolutions.  A resolution is a promise to be resolute.  Learning from the past is good; it can help us resolve to keep new resolutions.   

Janus is also said to hold the key to the doorways, the hallways and the entrances.  But the true keeper of the gate…the one who holds the key, has the power over choice and this is us.  God is sovereign, but He will still allow us to make choices.  He stands at the door today.  And no one shuts a door He opens, nor do they shut any door that He opens.  He will allow us to make even bad choices, however good still is produced in the long run.  

What are you going to do or try differently this year?  What will you attempt that you have never done before?  What risk (not physical) might you take?  What major event is planned for you?

I do hope the New Year and the new decade is good for you and that you may see enjoyable things and have pleasant experiences.  There is not another minute can your money buy, so shall family, friends and acquaintances not soon be forgotten.  And so for you and all your family, loved ones, friends, neighbors, Happy New Year to All and Best Wishes in 2011…and with the hope that I can remember that when writing checks!

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