“You can't go back and change the beginning but you can start where you are and change the ending.” -C.S. Lewis
“Katelyn, I’m not going to sugar-coat it… I don’t have much faith that you have what it takes to make it in college.”
These were the words spoken to me during my senior year of high school sitting in my guidance counselor’s office. I still remember walking back to my classroom trying to conceal my tear-ridden face and not let the words get to me. You see, I had been trying so hard to just be good enough to get my GPA in good standing due to my struggles with math classes. With English, Social Studies, and my other classes, I did well. Math was always something I struggled to comprehend and retain. Math was foreign to me and I had to try really hard to keep up with my classmates. So badly I wanted to understand what everyone else seemed to get so easily. So badly, I wanted to be good enough. To be delivered that crushing blow by someone who was supposed to guide me in the right direction and provide insight on what could be a possibility for me, made me feel like my entire future was shot down and trampled over all within a 20-minute meeting.
Fast forward 14 years, I’m getting ready to head into my very first semester of seminary. I’ve not only graduated from college, but am happily married and have tow beautiful girls. I’ve already beaten the odds of what that guidance counselor had predicted. You would think I’d be over that fateful 20-minute meeting that happened so long ago – that it shouldn’t have any effect on me now.
Recently, I’ve had friends and family ask me how I’m feeling about starting my courses. To be candid with you, the imposter syndrome has really hit. Self-doubt appearing in ways I didn’t feel before has been slowly creeping in. The anxiety I’ve been feeling has been keeping me awake at night and it’s driving me crazy. Some of these intruding thoughts include:
- What if I’m not good enough?
- You know your past – who is going to take you seriously as a pastor?
- Academics were never your strong suit. What makes you think you have the capability of doing a graduate program?
- You won’t be a good mom or wife if you dedicate time to study.
- You don’t have what it takes.
In a recent sermon series, The JoyFULL Life, we dove into what it means to live an exemplary life full of joy as followers of Jesus. Our associate pastor of groups and teaching, Nathanael, taught on Philippians 3:12-14 (NIV): “Not that I have already obtained all this, or have already arrived at my goal, but I press on to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of me. Brothers and sisters, I do not consider myself yet to have taken hold of it. But one thing I do: forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus.”
This passage gives such a great insight into the moments that I think we all feel – difficulty in getting past the past. Paul talks about this very feeling in his letter to the church of Philippi (above passage) due to his past continually being brought up. If you know the backstory of Paul, you know his past does not paint a pretty picture. His name wasn’t even Paul, but Saul, and He was known for zealously persecuting the early followers of Jesus in Jerusalem. His past makes him sound villainous, unforgivable, and hypocritical; many Christians rightfully feared him and were skeptical of him. Paul knew that it was only from Christ alone that he was changed forever and was called to live his life transformed to lead others to Jesus.
Paul recognized that his past did have some accolades, accomplishments, and honors that were given to him, but that his past doesn’t even compare to the accomplishments God has given to him since he left his former life and followed Christ. He had the titles, the power, and authority in his previous life, but pressed on in his pursuit of his ministry. In Clarke’s Commentary on Philippians 3, specifically in verse 13, we can better understand where Paul was coming from when he talks about why forgetting the past can be a benefit to our Christian journeys, “My conduct is not regulated nor influenced by that of others; I consider my calling, my Master, my work, and my end. If others think they have time to loiter or trifle, I have none: time is flying; eternity is at hand; and my all is at stake.” Paul is telling the church of Phillipi that with the time he has left on earth, he wants to spend that time fulfilling his mission to lead others to Christ. What matters most to him is “running the race” that Christ has set before him.
What can we take from Paul’s letter in this passage into the very races we are running? We can confidently find joy in the fact that by participating in our lives alongside Christ, we have the promise of eternal life and salvation at the end of our journey. By Christ’s sacrifices on the cross, we are granted the forgiveness of our sinful debts. In Dan Lioy’s article, The Faith Journey of Paul: An Exegetical Analysis of Philippians 3:1-14, he brilliantly summarizes Paul’s message to the church of Phillipi and also what we can take from this passage:
“Paul once tried to destroy the church he later helped to build. It took an encounter with the risen Lord Jesus to turn Paul’s life around. Thankfully, Paul had learned not to dwell on the sins of his past. Instead, he said “I press on,” keeping his eyes on heaven and the future. Likewise, God has called us to run for Him. He wants us to strive for the prize that awaits us in the Lord Jesus and to put forth every ounce of effort to attain the goal God has set before us. The Savior will reward us with a prize of far greater worth than anything we could possibly receive on earth.”
We all are running our own races, whether that is leading a team at our workplace, being a stay-at-home parent, going back to school, or maybe we are still figuring out what our race is. No matter what it is that God is calling us to, we can run confidently due to the love and joy that is given to us by our Savior. Keep running!
About the Author:
Katie Thrush is an active member in Women’s Groups, Women’s Leadership Board, Worship Arts, and Community Engagement at Grace Fishers. Katie also is a proud wife to David Thrush and has two little girls, Aria and Emery Thrush. She enjoys writing, gardening, baking, working out, and reading in her free time. Katie is an alumnus of Taylor University with a bachelor's in Christian Education with a minor in Biblical Literature. She also is currently in seminary at Grace Theological Seminary (Winona Lake, IN) pursuing her Master of Arts in Ministry Studies.
“Philippians 3 - Clarke’s Commentary - Bible Commentaries.” StudyLight.Org, www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/acc/philippians-3.html. Accessed 16 Aug. 2023.
Lioy, Dan. “The Faith Journey of Paul: An Exegetical Analysis of Philippians 3:1-14.” Conspectus (South African Theological Seminary), vol. 7, Mar. 2009, pp. 81–100. EBSCOhost, search.ebscohost.com/login.aspx?direct=true&db=a9h&AN=43450330&site=ehost-live.