One of Toby Mac's Facebook posts from January 9th was quite simple, yet profound: "Forget the past. But do remember the lesson." I think this is where the rubber meets the road for most of us - we remember the past and focus less on the lesson - if we even see the lesson in the past in the first place! By definition, a lesson is a useful piece of practical wisdom acquired by experience or study. If we go through things and never "acquire" anything by the experience of the event, we just might find ourselves repeating the "event" until we find the "lesson" in it!
Those who learn from the lessons of life will join the others who are wise. (Proverbs 15:31 VOICE)
A lesson is more than advice - we can take or leave advice, but to actually learn a lesson, we have to participate in it. Heaven knows there were a few lectures during my years and years of schooling where my mind drifted into pleasanter places! It wasn't unusual for me to have to look over at someone else to figure out where we were in the textbook at that moment when I re-entered reality! Many times we try to go through life in much the same way - only half paying attention, but expecting to get 100% out of life along the way!
We might not think there is much to learn from the failures of our lives - but if we look close enough, those are the exact places opportunities exist. It is in the moment of failing that we perhaps recognize there was another opportunity we might have explored. In order to see the opportunity, we have to look for the lesson in the moment. This doesn't come naturally for us because we'd rather gravitate to all the reasons something didn't work, or shift the blame to another just to get the focus off of our failure.
I once heard someone say it isn't the mountains we trip over in life - it is the pebbles and stones which litter the highway which takes us to the mountain. We see the mountain, but ignore the little things which tripped us up all along the way. When we step back a ways from the mountain, we might just see what we had been tripping on along the way! It is those smaller things God wants us to see - not just the "big issue" in our path. Those smaller "issues" may not have caused us to fail to make progress forward like the mountain does, but they impacted our journey and there is something to learn about their presence in our path and our response to them.
Pebbles might be kicked out of the way - ridding the path of their influence and making the journey for another a little easier to take. This is one way we learn the lessons of our past - by preparing a way for another's future steps. Pebbles might have become the things which dug into our feet as we trod along the path, giving us a little pain along the way. One thing is for sure - the process of pain can either be cursed, or embraced. Embraced and it becomes a place of learning - cursed and it becomes a place of impeded progress.
Pebbles might have been scooped up, tossed in the air over and over again as we walked along, and then eventually tossed into the wind never to be seen or appreciated again. Life experiences can be treated in much the same way - they give us some moments of reflection and then they are gone from our sight in just a moment of time. They can be remembered, but there is no "memorial" of their presence in our lives. In time, we even forget the memory of the pebble, for there are other things in our path which require our focus and acquire our attention.
Some of the stuff we deal with in life will be memorable. They will not be as easy to forget. Over the years, there have been a few pebbles along the path which I have taken up, considered, and even admired the beauty of the pebble a little. Those may have been placed in my pocket to be considered over and over again later on in life. What made those pebbles different? There was an appreciated beauty in them! What we come to appreciate in life may not be the most "beautiful" or significantly "profound", but when we appreciate the beauty in those "pebbles" along the way, we take a lesson from our past even when we have moved on. Just sayin!