I am moving from Houston to San Antonio at the end of the week, and on today’s to-do list was clearing off the refrigerator.
I stared at my magnet and memento menagerie. There were the 12-week ultrasound pictures of my now one-year-old son. The magnetic picture frame the alumni rep handed me at graduation. A picture booth strip of me and my wife during goofy times. The impressionistic crayon drawing of flowers on the back of an old home-teaching assignment from my niece.
Letting Go of the Past
I began to look back. Even though I had opened up the refrigerator nearly every day for the two years I lived here, I rarely took the time to really see all that had been carefully collected.
The temptation to look back can be strong. Yet the scriptures are clear on the need to be constantly moving forward.
“Press forward . . . with a perfect brightness of hope”
Perhaps the clearest example comes from Lot’s wife. Lot’s family had made a home and a life in Sodom. I can certainly imagine that when the Lord commanded Lot and his family to leave the city, they had also gathered mementos and memories that they had to sort through as they left.
But the Lord gave this commandment to the family as they fled, “Look not behind thee.” To progress we must stay focused on the future. There’s simply no way to walk backward without tripping.
There were other things on my refrigerator as well. There was a menu listing gnocchi which we haven’t had in the house since before Christmas. A magnet listing the 10 ways to show kids you care that my wife got on a tour of a foster children’s facility for a class during her first semester. And a snow cone punch card with four more to go before our free one.
These felt more like baggage. I even briefly considered whether I should go to the Sno Shack five times during the next two days. And it’s raining.
There was authentic value in simply letting these things go, open for the new. But as I cleared off the clutter, I still struggled with what to do with those parts of the past I didn’t want to let go of.
The Book of Mormon contains a powerful balance to the message of moving forward. The word “remember” is used 221 times! Almost always in the command form. Various prophets say to remember the Lord, remember the commandments, remember their family, and remember their blessings.
Clearly there are things worth holding on to–significant bits of the past that help to define and improve us. Just as there are things we must let go of. The Savior promised the Nephites, “for thou shalt forget the shame of thy youth, and shalt not remember the reproach of thy youth.”
Remembering is helpful only when we learn to keep those things with the greatest value, and let other things go.
The covered refrigerator door stared me down, with its combination of the important, the mundane, and the burdensome. I knew what I had to do. I tossed the magnetic picture frame.
How have you balanced remembering the past while moving to the future? Let us know in the comments!