Straining Forward
By Will Zant

"Will, your box is in the garage. Dig through it. Whatever you don't want, toss it in the trash."

This past December, my mother had me sort through all the items that she and my brother had gathered from the attic of my childhood home.

She is in the process of moving from my hometown of Jackson, Georgia. My wife, two children and I are happily living in Lawrenceville. But I do miss Jackson at times. It's been an adjustment suddenly to realize that on January 1st, I will no longer have claim to the house where I collected so many memories. I dug through that box in the garage. There were newspapers from the 1991 Atlanta Braves season, letters from my brother while he was at summer camp, an acceptance letter to college. How does one decide what to keep? Moving homes is an exercise in breaking with the past.

As a pastor, I minister to many people who are attempting to come to terms with the past. Many are coping with loss. Others hold tight to guilt. Others clinch to anger for what others have done to them. It's hard to break with the past. And yet, here we are in a New Year. One church member said to me in late November, "2016 can't get here quick enough. I'm ready to put this year behind me."

The Apostle Paul writes to the church in Philippi:

I do not 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 toward the goal for the prize of the heavenly call of God in Christ Jesus. (Philippians 3:12-14)

I take note that Paul had to break with the struggles of his past in order to embrace God's future. It's no easy task. In fact, Paul says he had to ‘strain forward.’

Just before Christmas, our family gathered for one more meal in our Jackson home. We swapped our favorite stories, even the sad ones. As we had hoped, we found healing in the sharing. As I pulled out of my childhood home, I took one more look at the marker where we buried our dog, the dilapidated basketball goal where we played and Jackson Lake where we swam. The heart swells in these endings.

When I arrived back to Snellville, I received a text message from my brother that we should gather for a New Years' celebration in our mother's new home. I took it as sign of God's presence for the future.

Of course, there's a sadness about breaking with the past, but we all have hope by straining forward to God's future. May 2016 be hopeful for you!

Will Zant is Co-Senior Pastor, along with his wife Blair, at Cannon United Methodist Church in Snellville. He can be reached at Willz@cannonchurch.org