When I saw this title: God Talk: Following Jesus by keeping your eyes forward by Roxanne Cunningham, I immediately thought of the Urantia Book's admonition to "disown the past." Also, of other teachings of this great blue book regarding the value of learning to live in the present. Please see our blog below for more about these topics, but first, here's a short snip from this nice article:
"...sometimes we can find ourselves holding on to the past and letting it dictate who we are. It's like trying to drive using only the rearview mirror. It can be harmful. I remember in about 5th grade I was heading into class at school. I was moving rather quickly but also looking back at others who were trying to beat me to class. Suddenly, bam, I ran into a steel and concrete pole. I am 63 years old and I still remember the giant knot on my head! I remember the pain. Spiritually speaking, I have things from my past that if I allow them to be my focus and fail to follow Jesus' lead I will crash in an awful way. So, I take a quick glance back, remember from where I have come, His great mercy toward me and quickly put my eyes back on Jesus."
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Disowning the past
The story of Jesus' thwarted meeting with his mother is one that is covered in the Bible at: Mt 12:46-50; Mk 3:31-35; Lk 8:19-21, but none of these Bible accounts tell much of the story. Only in The Urantia Book do we get the kind of detail and context that makes this amazing revelation "of greatest value" when studuying the life of Jesus.
This touching story takes place soon after the feeding of the five thousand, followed by Jesus momentous epochal sermon in the Capernaum synagogue. This was the time of the "sifting of the kingdom," in which many followers fell away when Jesus refused to be their king. Jesus now took the offensive against the Jewish authorities in his mission, and in the midst of a hasty flight from the agents of Herod who were bent on arresting Jesus, his family arrives to see him, expecting him to receive them. He meant to, but circumstances in the moment dictated otherwise. As a result, the rift between Jesus and his family widened. Here's the story. Note especially the commentary at the end of this section which I have bolded:
"It was just another of those instances in which his earth family could not comprehend that he must be about his Father's business. And so Mary and his brothers were deeply hurt when, notwithstanding that he paused in his speaking to receive the message, instead of his rushing out to greet them, they heard his musical voice speak with increased volume: "Say to my mother and my brothers that they should have no fear for me. The Father who sent me into the world will not forsake me; neither shall any harm come upon my family. Bid them be of good courage and put their trust in the Father of the kingdom. But, after all, who is my mother and who are my brothers?" And stretching forth his hands toward all of his disciples assembled in the room, he said: "I have no mother; I have no brothers. Behold my mother and behold my brethren! For whosoever does the will of my Father who is in heaven, the same is my mother, my brother, and my sister."
"And when Mary heard these words, she collapsed in Jude's arms. They carried her out in the garden to revive her while Jesus spoke the concluding words of his parting message. He would then have gone out to confer with his mother and his brothers, but a messenger arrived in haste from Tiberias bringing word that the officers of the Sanhedrin were on their way with authority to arrest Jesus and carry him to Jerusalem. Andrew received this message and, interrupting Jesus, told it to him.
"Mary and Jesus' brothers thought that Jesus did not understand them, that he had lost interest in them, little realizing that it was they who failed to understand Jesus. Jesus fully understood how difficult it is for men to break with their past. He knew how human beings are swayed by the preacher's eloquence, and how the conscience responds to emotional appeal as the mind does to logic and reason, but he also knew how far more difficult it is to persuade men to disown the past.
"It is forever true that all who may think they are misunderstood or not appreciated have in Jesus a sympathizing friend and an understanding counselor. He had warned his apostles that a man's foes may be they of his own household, but he had hardly realized how near this prediction would come to apply to his own experience. Jesus did not forsake his earth family to do his Father's work—they forsook him. Later on, after the Master's death and resurrection, when James became connected with the early Christian movement, he suffered immeasurably as a result of his failure to enjoy this earlier association with Jesus and his disciples."
Read the entire story HERE
Mary and Jesus' family were hurt because Jesus would not - could not - drop everything and see them. And then, as he tries to tell his listeners that they are as important to him and his mission as members of his blood family, Mary hears those words that caused her to collapse with shock.
But as the text indicates, the family were all more or less living in a fearful past, remembering past imagined slights and his supposed "neglect" of them. Not only that, Mary was full of fear for Jesus. She had been swayed by the emotional appeal of the Pharisees' lies about his health, his mental stability, and the possibility that he would disgrace them all. She was distraught and "torn between love and fear, between mother love and family pride."
Not only did they fail to grasp the message that he was speaking loud enough for them to hear- words of hope, of assurance - they failed to grasp the importance of what was really happening at that moment and had let all of these past worries influence them so much that they wanted to stop his work. They looked back and saw fear; they looked back and saw worry; they looked forward and saw disaster. This put them at immediate odds with Jesus and his purpose.
Only Ruth, who "believed wholeheartedly and continuously in the divinity of his mission on earth" remained fully present, steadfast and supportive of her brother, saying: "I will tell my brother that I think he is a man of God, and that I hope he would be willing to die before he would allow these wicked Pharisees to stop his preaching." But one of the brothers promised to keep her quiet about that.
Avoid being driven by fear
Poor Mary - of course, any mother can understand her upset at Jesus' words, but it was only as a result of unfulfilled expectations and unresolved antagonisms from the past as well as fear for the future. Had she and the others understood more of what was happening, and the importance of Jesus' mission that he was even then trying to accomplish, they might not have had such hurt feelings, but would have been more supportive.
We can all take a lesson from this story about the value of trying our best to stay in the present moment as much as possible, not dwelling on either the past or the future, except as it may inform and enlighten the present moment.
But we must reject the "mental poisons" of fear, suspicion, and intolerance when seeking that kind of guidance/wisdom. It seems to me that much of Jesus' family reactions were born of such distressing emotions.
Living in the present, maturing into the future
We learn from the Urantia Book teaching that God is present only in the now - he is the great "I AM." It's never I WAS, or I WILL BE - always "I AM."
2:1.5 No thing is new to God, and no cosmic event ever comes as a surprise; he inhabits the circle of eternity. He is without beginning or end of days. To God there is no past, present, or future; all time is present at any given moment. He is the great and only I AM.
118:1.7 To become mature is to live more intensely in the present, at the same time escaping from the limitations of the present. The plans of maturity, founded on past experience, are coming into being in the present in such manner as to enhance the values of the future.
We can certainly forgive Mary and Jesus' family for their failure to appreciate these values; certainly Jesus understood clearly what his words and actions meant to them and forgave them for their misunderstanding of him. Theirs was a truly unique situation, as anyone can imagine. He certainly had no intentions of causing pain or anguish; but he could not tailor his mission to accommodate the hurt feelings of even his family members.
But after all, who among us has not done the same things in our lives? Haven't we all been guilty of living too much in the past? or the future? Wouldn't we all benefit from taking these teachings to heart and learning to appreciate the past, future AND present as one large continuum, learning to live fully with God in the present moment (which is ONLY where he can be found)? Trusting that as we become true partners with God that he will help us live our lives fully in the present with lives of originality and freedom?
The information that we obtain from our study of The Urantia Book can enrich our lives by helping us to delve more deeply into what it means to be a living, learning child of God. Information really is powerful. And when we know better, we do better. And when we do better we are happier, more productive friends, workers, mothers, fathers, sisters and brothers - and fearless workers for the kingdom.