"No, dear brothers and sisters, I have not achieved it, but I focus on this one thing: Forgetting the past and looking forward to what lies ahead, I press on to reach the end of the race and receive the heavenly prize for which God, through Christ Jesus, is calling us."
-Paul, Philippians 3:13-14
Two weeks ago, hurricane Ida ripped up the gulf coast, bringing tornados and serious amounts of rainfall across the south and east coast. Many spots in Pennsylvania received over 8 inches of rain, and while we didn't get hit that hard in Delaware, there was still more water than anyone knew what to do with. It impacted millions of people in various ways, but around here, most damage was minimal except in the lowest lying areas. Those spots had some real damage.
The Vine Street Expressway runs right through Philly less than an hour from here. It was so deep that kayakers were paddling on it (that's I-676!) after the storm, in 15+ feet of water that simply had no where to go! That's what happens when a big storm hits and you don't have adequate drainage.
Good drainage is simply a system or a position in which water can continue on its way instead of pooling and continuing to damage things. Sometimes people are fortunate to live on top of a hill, but most of the time good drainage requires intentionality. You have to build systems that can divert water away from houses, trails, and streets.
It's common to see huge amounts of manpower put into digging drainage ditches in local parks and streets on the sides of roads. These channels of rocks and stone take tens of thousands of dollars to construct. But I've come to realize that the damage that can happen without adequate drainage is far more than the work required to be ready for the storms.
Healthy spiritual formation requires us to be intentional about having drainage systems in our lives-- ways of helping damaging storms move past us without pooling and creating additional chaos and long term damage in our spirit.
The apostle Paul speaks of the ability to look forward rather than dwelling on the past. This doesn't mean he actually forgot his past. In fact, he frequently brings up his own wounds and struggles and how God's grace met him and transformed him through them. However, there is a sense that healthy movement means moving through pain and heartache and failures, letting them drain off of us so that we can experience wholeness once again.
We are so fortunate that God has given us numerous ways to have healthy drainage systems in our lives so that the storms that come do not destroy us. But it takes intentionality. Paul writes later in Philippians that we are invited to bring our anxieties to God in prayer, and that God promises supernatural peace in our spirits. We are also given the Church, the Body of Christ, as a wonderful gift to bear one anothers' burdens and help us heal. And we are told to practice forgiveness every day, which allows hurt and offense to drain away from our spirits, replaced by God's love and compassion. And we follow Jesus into the quiet places of honesty and stillness, sitting with him long enough to truly become aware of the things that are destroying us so that we can release them and begin to move forward again. These are structures of healthy drainage in our lives.
God has made us resilient people by his spirit, and we are capable of healing even when there is massive flooding in our lives-- things such as family crises, job losses, depression, financial despair, deep hurts, and relational division. But every disciple must decide if we will utilize drainage structures in our daily routines. Times of confession with Jesus, times of deep spiritual encouragement with other disciples, and practices of looking forward and listening to what new things God is speaking, all are a part of real spiritual health.
Most of the time we can't control the storms or how much water gets dumped on us. But we can choose to trust the ways of Jesus in moving forward without allowing those storms to do more damage than they already have. God is a God of restoration and healing; and none of us are outside of that promise. Choose to be courageous today, looking to what lies ahead and moving on from what needs to drain away. Jesus is walking with you as you go.
Jesus, help me create practices in my life that move me toward healing and wholeness, with my eyes on what's ahead.