My husband tries to avoid backing up in a parking lot. It’s dangerous, he says.

Whenever possible, he chooses a space where he can pull through–not so he can exit faster, but so he can see what’s coming and avoid being hit by someone else who is backing up. He’s taught me to do the same. Even at a convenience store, he’ll often pull up to a gas pump–even if he doesn’t need gas–rather than parking directly in front of the store where he’d have to back out of the spot. (Don’t worry. He doesn’t do this if there’s a line for the pumps–he’s not rude!)

The principle applies to life, too. There’s no point in backing up, or in continuing to look back at the past.

Yes, we need to learn from our mistakes, but God doesn’t want us to dwell on them. The apostle Paul wrote, “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 upward call of God in Christ Jesus” (Philippians 3:13-14 ESV).

There is a difference between recognizing our past mistakes and moving forward, with God’s help, to avoid them, and dwelling on them to the extent that we get stuck in the past. “For godly grief produces a repentance that leads to salvation without regret, whereas worldly grief produces death” (2 Corinthians 7:10, ESV). 

To repent means to turn around and go the other way or, as we might say today, to do a complete one-eighty. That’s dangerous in a parking lot or on the highway but in life, it can be dangerous not to, if the road we are on leads away from God. Once we have navigated that turnaround, He wants us to focus on what lies ahead, not look over our shoulder with longing or regret for the past.

We can take comfort in the knowledge that Jesus forgives and forgets our past when we ask Him to. “As far as the east is from the west, so far does he remove our transgressions from us” (Psalm 103:12, ESV).

Next time you find yourself wanting to look in your rear-view mirror, don’t. Keep your eyes focused on the way ahead and go forward into the life God has prepared for you.