Cut It Down and Forget About It
"What is twisted cannot be straightened; what is lacking cannot be counted." Ecclesiastes 1:15
Here are two stories to ponder. One comes from the Civil War, the other from the Vietnam War. In Charles Bracelen Flood’s book Lee: The Last Years, Flood tells of a time after the Civil War when Robert E. Lee visited a woman who took him to the remains of a grand old tree in front of her home. There she cried bitterly that its limbs and trunk had been destroyed by Union artillery fire. She waited for Lee to condemn the North or at least sympathize with her loss. Lee paused, and then said, “Cut it down, my dear madam, and then forget it.
Good advice from a man who knew the horrors of war and suffered the pain of defeat.
The second story comes from an interview with Pete Peterson who served as the US ambassador to Vietnam. Mr. Peterson’s appointment was ironic because he served six years as a prisoner of war in the dreaded “Hanoi Hilton” prison camp. Now he would return to the land where he was held captive-returning not for revenge, but to represent the United States. When asked how he could do such a thing after years of starvation, torture, and inhuman brutality, he replied, “I’m not angry. I left that at the gates of the prison when I walked out in 1972. That may sound simplistic to some people, but it’s the truth. I just left it behind me and decided to move forward with my life.”
This week a simple thought has come to my mind more than once. It goes like this:
I can’t go back.
I can’t stay here.
I must go forward.
You can’t go back to the past-not to relive the good times or to seek revenge for the bad times. But you can’t stay where you are either. Life is like a river that flows endlessly onward. It matters not whether you are happy in your present situation or seek deliverance from it. You can’t stay where you are forever. The only way to go is forward.
A man whose wife suffered greatly at the hands of her enemies told me that she had taken a “vow of silence” regarding her critics. She decided that rather than lower herself to the level of her critics, she would simply not reply at all. This is difficult, but at least it frees a person to move forward with God.
When you’re tempted to get even with those who hurt you, remember that you can’t go back, you can’t stay where you are, but by God’s grace, you can move forward one step at a time.
My Father, when I am tempted to live in the past, help me to remember that You are the God of new beginnings. Amen.