No Looking Back [Sunday Message]

Sermon Notes and Jill

I love going to church and I love taking the messages received and apply them back to my personal life. I also find myself taking the message and applying it to Willowbrook. How do we live our lives on the sanctuary and how do we take care of the animals – how do we do this in a way to glorify God?

Considering most around us do not view our conviction as something from God, it can be hard for them to believe how it applies to us. But it does. And as a side note: I feel very strongly that God placed this purpose in my life as does Matt – what we are doing at Willowbrook is creating a life of peace and love, of grace and mercy for ALL of God’s creation.

With that said, I would like to take Sundays to blog about the message and the tie to Willowbrook (living a cruelty-free lifestyle). I’m guessing you won’t mind … but if you do, perhaps skip the messages marked [Sunday Message]. If you are interested in it, I will present my take on the message for Willowbrook AND a link at the end of the post to the Facebook live feed of the actual sermon.

So today’s message was titled “Working Out Our 20/20 Vision”. Our minister went over 6 points on how to give yourself a spiritual workout (he loves lists… and so do I *laughs*). One of his points is where I want to focus on today’s message: Don’t Look Back.

The spiritual message was rooted mostly in Philippians with a few verses from other books of the Bible. The points he presented were:

  1. Run to Win (1 Corinthians 9:24)
  2. Get rid of excess weight (Hebrews 12:1)
  3. Aim for Success (Philippians 3:7-10)
  4. Have Clear Focus (Psalm 27:4)
  5. Don’t Look Back (Philippians 3:13)
  6. Press on even when its hard (Philippians 3:14)

I’m not going to focus on the other five points… just point 5: Don’t Look Back. Philippians 3:13 reads: Brethren, I count not myself to have apprehended: but this one thing I do, forgetting those things which are behind, and reaching forth unto those things which are before…

Forgetting what is behind you and reaching for what is before me … Pastor made a great point, and has made it several times in his last few sermons: You cannot look back AND look forward at the same time. It is OK to learn from the past, but you should not live in the past.

What a message for my personal spiritual journey! I get so hung up looking at who I used to be that I forget to see who I am now – how far I have come, how I’ve grown my relationship with God, and what I am doing that is positive. But putting myself to the side, what a message for Willowbrook! What a message to every single person who wants to change or has changed BUT keeps getting hung up in the past.

Truth is, we all stumble. Specific to the cruelty-free lifstyle, I am pretty sure I could safely say NO ONE can say they have never caused direct or indirect harm to another living being.

But why do we, as humans, hold ourselves back because of something that we did … something in the past… something we CANNOT change?

I would love to say that I have been plant-based from birth – but its not true. I hunted animals. I fished. I ate meat daily for many years in my life. My parents didn’t know anything different from how they were raised. I was raised on the Standard American Diet – and my bodied suffered for it. Animals suffered for it.

But I’m not looking back. I know now that every night when I go to bed, nothing had to die for me to live that day. Yes, I mess up – but if God isn’t going to hold that against me, why would I spend the time beating myself up over a mistake?

Examples anyone?

  1. If you are a new vegan and you accidentally ate something with milk in it – that’s ok! Realize the mistake but vow to be better with your next meal.
  2. If you are someone who feels you have already caused so much damage to your physical health there is no reason to even try – I call shenanigans. Starting today, if you change your diet to remove meat, dairy, and eggs – your body will thank you for it. There is no reason to keep causing damage simply because you have caused damage in the past.

We are our absolute own, worst enemies when it comes to shaming ourselves for bad behavior. We can truly incapacitate ourselves mentally, physically, socially, and spiritually because we refuse to forgive ourselves for a mistake.

Coincidentally, I’m reading a book called “The Responsibility Process” which is about identifying the difference of “being responsible” vs “taking responsibility.” There is a little game in one of the chapters – and apparently I’ve been playing this game my whole life. It’s called the Catch Earlier game – and I think it applies to the idea of just letting your past go.

To play the game, identify the behavior you want to stop or change. Professionally it could be talking over people in meetings (this is done to me, not something I do to others *laughs*) … for someone who wants to be cruelty-free, it could be “stop eating meat.”

So you go through your days, weeks, etc – and lets say you accidentally picked up a product that had lard in it… but you didn’t know. You find out as you are eating it and reading the ingredients (usually how the accidents happen for me DOH!). Do you gag the food out of your mouth and then self-shame for your ignorance over the next three days? Or do you forgive yourself for the accident, recognizing it was not your intent, and then vow to do better next time? Perhaps vow to read the ingredients before the first bite?

The game is easy: identify when you make the mistake, forgive yourself, and vow to do better next time. Pretty simple. I’m guessing the majority, if not all, of those that read this message play this game. You just didn’t know what it was called. With the game, I think the hardest part and the most important part is giving yourself forgiveness.

Spiritually, I feel Satan is waiting for us to make those mistakes. He loves to see us beat ourselves up because as long as we are beating ourselves up over something we did in the past, we are definitely not focused on our relationship with God. We are not focused on what is in front of us. We are creating a negative space around us and impacting the people around us.

But if we make a mistake and we recognize it, we can forgive ourselves for the mistake (and seek God’s forgiveness for sins committed) – we then move on. Our lives are more peaceful and we can focus on what is in front of us. We can be more positive in our day-to-day living because we don’t have that nasty little internal voice telling us everything we have done wrong – or why we aren’t worthy of something new and wonderful in our future.

To wrap this up, the words “learn from the past, don’t live in it” really resonated with me. For my plant-based journey, I will forgive myself for mistakes made and try harder next time. For Willowbrook, we have made some mistakes here and there – and we learn from them. Thankfully none have been major. But with anything, we will press on with our message of love, kindness, grace, and mercy.

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