Don’t Drive Forward Using The Rearview Mirror

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Brethren, I do not regard myself as having laid hold of it yet; but one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and reaching forward to what lies ahead, I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus. (Philippians 3:13-14)

By Dan Byron, Catholic Stand, November 27, AD2017

I have had a driver’s license for over half a century, from a series of states, and have been a passenger for nearly a score of years prior to that.  During all of that time, there are a few things involving motor vehicles which remain universally true, one of the most interesting is the proportion of viewing areas.

Depending on the size of the vehicle, the windshield may be up to a couple of square yards in size, the side windows are usually not more than a couple of square feet in size, yet, the rearview mirror is only a few square inches. Even if you add the side mirrors, the result is still only a couple of dozen square inches in size.

Clearly, this would mean we are supposed to stay focused on a forward movement looking through the windshield, be aware of our surroundings via the side windows and simply be attentive to what is happening or has happened behind us using the side and rearview mirrors.

Does That Sound Familiar?

It may be argued that the same sort of size relationship applies to our lives as well.  That is, we should spend far more time and attention in seeking out the goal which is before us, that is, eternal joy found in the beatific vision. We need to “keep our eyes on the prize” while still being attentive to the things which surround us. Looking ahead gives the opportunity to see curves in the road, hay bales which have fallen off of trucks, traffic slowdown issues, and warning signs, billboards, etc.

The side windows help us to assure that we are between the ditches and are not about to strike another vehicle or person.  The side mirrors help us to see if other travelers are to the side of us, or to help us take a quick glance behind us during our most recent ditch-to-ditch excursion.

The rearview mirror is there to help us see where we have been and possibly to recognize any damage we may have done during our travels.  The rearview mirror may be most related to the sacrament of reconciliation.  That which has been done is behind us, yet, we must be attentive to it lest we make the same error again.  Reconciliation provides a vehicle through which we may atone for past sins, make amends, do some reparation,  and most importantly, be forgiven for our failings.

We need to look up at the rearview mirror every so often to assure that we are not being overtaken by the complacency which the enemy may wish for us.  This may be somewhat analogous to a daily examination of conscience used to review the day, explore what could have been done better, what should have been done for our brothers, etc.

You Shouldn’t Drive Forward Using The Rearview Mirror

Spending all of your effort in watching the rearview mirror easily robs you of current and future progress along our path to the ultimate destination.  Reconciliation has helped us take care of the huge stumbling blocks in our lives which are now behind us.  We have been forgiven and can move along our path, paying attention to past failings.

If we spend too much time focused on our past errors, we are trying to drive by looking in the rearview mirror.  While that may be able to tell us that we are essentially still between the ditches, or that we were a few feet ago, it will be of no help to keep us from hitting the police cruiser in front of us.

While it is necessary to check the rearview to see any changes there, the perspective or proportion of its size should help guide us, that is, the windshield is many times larger than the rearview, so, we should spend much more time looking forward and upward.

A Related Analogy

Not all of our trips, errands, excursions are done during the day, some may be during the twilight, evening or nighttime.  There are also those trips which, while they may start during the daylight, continue into and perhaps through the darkness.

To help us to see a bit of what lies ahead as we travel in the dark, the vehicle is equipped with headlights.  Many vehicles can turn these on automatically when they are needed, or can be set to be on during all times the vehicle is in operation, but, in most cases, it is up to us to turn them on when they are needed.

The vehicle moving through the darkness is analogous to us as we may be moving through a period of our own spiritual darkness referred to as the dark night of the soul.  This period of darkness or spiritual dryness if you will, has beset any number of people over the passage of time.  Some of these periods of darkness may last a few days or months, but some may go on for years. St. Thérèse of the Child Jesus and the Holy Face, St. Teresa of Calcutta, and St John of the Cross are some of the most well known.

Prayer, meditation, reflection, and hope become our headlights as we travel along in our darkness.  Isaiah 55:6 reminds us to keep looking for Him no matter if we can “see” Him or not, similar to the period when he is hidden by our spiritual darkness, “Seek the LORD while he may be found, call upon him while he is near.”

Many of us may be called upon to undergo a period of dryness or darkness in our spiritual lives, to me, this simply means that the sun, the Light of Christ the Son, who will shine much more brightly when we emerge on the other side.

 Brethren, I do not regard myself as having laid hold of it yet; but one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and reaching forward to what lies ahead, I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus. (Philippians 3:13-14)


About the Author: 

Dan and his bride, his gift from God, have been married over 50 years, and they have recently moved to East TN to reduce the distance to family. He is a 4th degree Knight, is active in the Society of St Vincent de Paul, and several other ministries. He has been listed in the “Who’s Who Directory of Global Business Leaders”.