"But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead"
(Phil. 3:13, NIV
Human beings have a proclivity to cherish the past. We look at our own history and experiences through rose-colored lenses. We consider what has come before us to be the golden years, or we may talk about the good old days. No matter how young or old a person is, the past seems to hold a particular charm. It is difficult to look at the past without bias; and it is equally difficult for us to give up those habits, traditions and patterns that have rooted themselves deeply into our lives.
The Bible is filled with warnings about holding onto the past too tightly. Lot's wife comes to mind—she was turned into a pillar of salt. God told Abraham and Sarah to leave behind the old land and journey to a new land—and by embracing the new, God would give them a blessing and, in fact, bless the world. Paul the apostle echoes these themes often, and inspires us to leave behind the past and press on toward the upward call of God.
This is difficult to do, of course, but a new year presents us with many opportunities to do just that. By focusing on what lies ahead, we are given permission to leave behind painful experiences, strained relationships or forgive old injuries and misunderstandings. The past can bind us. The future can set us free.
As you begin a new year in youth ministry, take a few minutes to assess the past. Take stock of your relationships, patterns, needs, habits and anything that has influenced or impacted you. Perhaps there are aspects of your ministry that you would change. Perhaps you need to spend more time in self-care in 2013: eating a better diet, exercising more frequently, etc. Perhaps there are new disciplines you need to develop or new ways you can lead others. You might need to spend more time with your family, developing friendships or finding more quiet time. You might need to be more focused in your work, or perhaps there are particular teenagers who need help and guidance.
Regardless of the past, we can press on toward a new future. Of course we need God's strength and grace to do these things, but we won't take a first step toward change unless we are willing; and being willing is awareness. Take one step this week, and then another step the following week. Day by day in 2013, you'll be embracing the future God has for you and your ministry.