Have you ever when driving, glanced in your rear-view mirror and realized that the person behind you must be late for work, or an important appointment, because they are riding your tail so close you can see the anxiety and frustration on their face? Maybe they are in the middle of a phone conversation that’s apparently upsetting them, or reaching across the seat to gather up their fallen papers or purse contents that have scattered all over their car when they slammed the breaks on too hard at that last light. (I know I cannot be the only person who has observed this, or for that matter experienced it first hand.) It’s hard not to get preoccupied with a scene like that behind you. For me, it’s even hard not to allow it to affect my own driving and emotions. I can lose focus on the road ahead, my destination, and miss potential hazards in the way. I’m too focused on that rear view mirror.
The tendency to focus too much on what’s behind me shows up in other areas of my life as well. A few weeks ago, my husband and I were doing some reminiscing of our first year of marriage. Whenever we have these conversations we usually marvel at how much has changed in our lives. You see, our first year of marriage was pre-disclosure of my husband’s porn addiction; pre-recovery and pre-Jesus in our lives. It was just around our first year anniversary that I discovered his addiction.
Remembering and talking about the past, I would say, is not entirely a bad thing, indeed it can be a great reminder of where we came from. It can keep us grounded in the reality that life without God and recovery, well quite frankly, doesn’t work out so well for us. It also keeps us from becoming prideful, believing the lie that we’ve got this all figured out on our own. Looking at the past so clearly reminds us that God is the One who pulled us out of the muck and sustains us today.
There is a potentially dangerous side to all this reminiscing for me though, and this particular incident with my husband pointed out where I am still weak. Somewhere in the midst of our conversation, my thoughts turned toward questions about my husband’s acting out. Questions like: Is there something I still don’t know? Are there details that I want to demand of him? My imagination then gets triggered, and I am actually answering these questions myself, in my head. I imagine who he may have looked at lustfully, how he may have felt toward them, and how I may not have measured up next to these women. At that point I am consumed with these thoughts, and the feelings follow. I experience that aching rush through my body and the drop of the stomach when betrayal has just been brought to light. It’s as if I am back in those moments all over again, experiencing the shock and then devastation of the truth about the man I married. It is seemingly real in that moment. All the while, my husband is just chattering along, unaware of what is going on inside of me. Suddenly I lose any self-control and I lash out at him with accusations and sarcasm. Well, things get real sour at that point, and seemingly any progress that has been made over the years, gets thrown out the window. The conversation ends in hurt feelings and frustration.
Now, this scene has played out several times between my husband and I over the years, and for the most part, I have to confess that I have allowed myself to wallow in these feelings and continue to obsess about the past and possibilities regarding my husband’s acting out. In the recovery program I work, this could be considered a major slip! This being a major weakness of mine, no doubt, I was tempted to fall into this once again, but after a moment of prayer and reflection, a verse written by Paul, that I have read over many times, spoke to my heart: “…but I focus on this one thing: Forgetting the past and looking forward to what lies ahead, I press on to reach the end of the race and receive the heavenly prize for which God, through Christ Jesus, is calling us.” Philippians 3:13-14.
With this in mind, I knew I had a choice. I could allow myself to get distracted by assumptions, imaginings, and even cold hard facts about the past. I could forget the destination that I have been called to head toward, and instead focus on that rear-view mirror, and as a result miss out on His call to freedom in Him, and a better way of life. Or, I could make that conscious choice to stay focused on the road before me, the path of recovery, and be about the business of today. By God’s grace I can choose the latter on a daily basis!