A cloud of witnesses around,
Hold thee in full survey;
Forget the steps already trod,
And onward urge thy way.
Rather than helping, it upset me. What do you mean forget! #1, aren't those who forget doomed to repeat the worst parts of the past? and #2, I don't want to forget! I want to remember!!
These lines have continued to irritate me, until today. The second lesson from Ephesians includes a phrase that unlocked the irritation for me. In it, Paul uses "Gentiles" as a title for all the unfaithful and refers to the "futility of their minds."
None of us are wholly faithful or wholly unfaithful. We oscillate, and aim to spend more time faithful. In our unfaithful moments, the recollections of the mind can indeed be quite futile. I recall this sage golfing advice from my father about futile recollections:
Never stand on a tee box and say, "This is the hole where I always hit it in the water." Say, "This is the hole where I used to hit it in the water!"
Philip Doddridge, an English Congregationalist who wrote today's hymn, does not appear to have been a golfer. But his meaning was the same. Our past need not define us. All the faithful cheer us on toward renewed and deeper faith. May we hear them this day.