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A Slice Of Life To Go is an online Christian blog written by Todd Thompson. It encourages people to see the beauty in ordinary moments and to know God’s unconditional, unfailing love in everyday life.

Rear View Mirror

January 11th, 2008

The 1976 movie “Gumball Rally” is about an illegal coast to coast road race that starts in New York City and ends in Los Angeles. If you’re a fan of fast cars and road rally racing, it’s an entertaining film. Car buffs who thrill to the sounds of performance engines say it’s especially fun to watch with the surround sound turned up really loud.

A scene early in the film shows the drivers getting into their vehicles to start the race. Franco, the Italian race driver (played by Raul Julia), jumps into his Ferrari. He reaches up, grabs the rear view mirror and breaks it off the windshield. Tossing it aside, he says with great conviction,

“The first rule of Italian driving is a what’s a behind me is a not important.”

What’s behind me is not important. It makes sense if you’re a race driver. Beyond that, it’s still worth thinking about.

As we sit in the driver’s seat, all of us have three parts to our life experience:

Our past – Where we’ve been. The stuff we see in our rear view mirror.

Our present – Where we are today. The view through the windshield in this moment.

Our future – What lies ahead down the road. The unseen future God has for us.

Today we sit in the driver’s seat facing the future and we wonder what to do with what we see in our life’s rear view mirror. It’s a mix of successes and failures. Victories and defeats. Honors and embarrassments.

For most of us, it’s not the good parts of our past that hold us back. I doubt many people go to their therapists and say, “I feel like I’m spinning my wheels. I just can’t seem to get past being elected Homecoming queen.” No, it’s the bad and sad we tend to fixate on. The wrongs done to us and the wrongs we did to others.

How much time do you spend thinking about the imposed and self-inflicted pains from your past? Are they passing thoughts? Rare thoughts? Or are they thoughts that preoccupy you? Thoughts that consume you?

If you get in your car tomorrow morning, pull out on the freeway and drive looking only at the rear view mirror, how far do you think you’d get? Who likes to start their day with the sounds of shattering glass and crunching metal?

God understands that we all have a past. But I wonder… does He spend as much time thinking about it as we do?

And if He doesn’t, why do we?

God says that if and when we confess our sins, “He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” (1 John 1:9) He also promises that we are a “new creature in Christ” (2 Corinthians 5:17). By God’s definition, we are forgiven.

The problem of staring at the rear view mirror after God forgives us is that we begin to confuse our past with our present identity. We still see the image of who we used to be. The screw up. The rebel. The liar. The cheat. We feel the weight of our sin and in our soul pressed moments begin to doubt and wonder if God has really forgiven us. When our image of who we are comes from the rear view mirror, we can’t see through the windshield to our present reality and the future God has for us. The famous psychiatrist Karl Menninnger once said that if he could convince the patients in psychiatric hospitals that their sins were forgiven, 75% of them could walk out the next day.

Make no mistake. Satan doesn’t want you looking through the windshield. He wants your eyes glued to the rear view mirror. He’s not about to remind you that you are forgiven. He wants you to see yourself as the person you used to be, not the new creation you are. Satan can’t stop you from accepting God’s forgiveness. But he will work like hell to see that you don’t accept God’s acceptance. If he can keep your eyes on everything ugly in your rear view mirror, you won’t live like a forgiven person.

There’s a reason the rear view mirror is this big and the windshield is THIS BIG. Rear view mirrors are for glancing at, not staring at. Rear view mirrors are for perspective. A quick look once in awhile to remember from a grateful heart what God has saved you from. A peek to remember that by God’s grace, you aren’t the person you used to be. You are a new creation.

Time to stop staring at the rear view mirror of yesterday and start looking through the windshield of today. That’s where you’ll see all the people that need to hear the good news that God is here to love and forgive and accept them. Unconditionally.

Eyes forward.

“This one thing I do: Forgetting what lies behind and reaching 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