Putting Life in Portrait Mode

by Karen Ehman August 24, 2020
“But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and reaching forward to what is ahead, I pursue as my goal the prize promised by God’s heavenly call in Christ Jesus.” Philippians 3:13b-14 (CSB)
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I often have trouble focusing. Not my eyes, but my mind.

My thoughts love to wander. They trip me up, reminding me of a past mistake, habitual weakness or possible future scenario that might go horribly wrong. No matter how I try to boss my brain around, I can’t seem to make it concentrate.

My phone, however, has a great feature for bringing focus.

Recently, while taking a picture on my phone of my budding geraniums, I used a camera element called portrait mode. This feature makes the main subject of a photograph stay in focus while the rest of the background blurs. My geraniums seemed to leap off the screen, becoming the clear center of attention when up against the haziness of the rest of the backyard.

If only my brain came equipped with a portrait mode!

As we navigate our days, sometimes our past mistakes, wrong choices or long-held habits threaten to steal our attention away from what we should be focusing on — what matters most.

Today’s key passage from Philippians 3:13b-14 gives us encouragement as to where our attention should lie. The Apostle Paul states, “But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and reaching forward to what is ahead, I pursue as my goal the prize promised by God’s heavenly call in Christ Jesus.”

Paul is referring to athletes who run a race, emphasizing the importance of keeping one’s eyes looking forward, not turning to glance behind. Looking back would slow the runner, causing a loss of focus of the path ahead. However, when Paul fixes his gaze forward, he isn’t tripped up but pursues as his goal, “the prize promised by God’s heavenly call in Christ Jesus.

The image is even more powerful when we study the Greek meaning of the word “forgetting.” The word translated in its original form doesn’t mean simply a failure to remember — such as when you forget a dentist appointment in a brain blip. It means calculated and purposeful neglect, a realization that you no longer care. This intentional abandonment encompasses forgetting things, events, times and places.

This deliberate ignoring of the past permits Paul to run unimpeded and with clear focus toward the goal. What is this goal he is racing toward? The word “goal” in the English language is never used anywhere else in the New Testament. It signifies an end-marker of a foot race. Paul is using it to mark the end of our race of faith in this earthly life.

As we grow in our relationship with God through faith in Jesus, may we run the race well and with clear focus — eyes square ahead, not staring or even peeking at the past. Jesus was there when the race began, and He’ll be the one greeting us at the finish line … Jesus our Savior, the one who is both the founder and perfecter of our faith. (Hebrews 12:2)

Will you fix your gaze ahead today rather than letting the past distract you from where God would have you to go? When we purpose to focus solely on Jesus, the past fades, distractions blur, and we find our faith renewed.

Father, please help me fix my gaze forward, riveting my eyes only upon You. May the past and all other distractions fade away into the background. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.


Proverbs 4:25, “Let your eyes look forward; fix your gaze straight ahead.” (CSB)


Take courage — you are enough! Enjoy your hot beverage of choice while reading your new favorite devotional. Get our new Hey Mama, You Are Enough: A Devotional for Motherhood with our new Take Courage mug together and save! You can even bundle and give one away to a friend. What are you waiting for? Shop now.




Head over to Karen’s Instagram account, where she is giving away a Bible study basket based on her LifeWay study of Philippians, entitled, What Matters Most. It includes the DVD-based study, two workbooks and a few other goodies for you to enjoy as you study with a friend.


What past mistake, wrong choice or long-held habit threatens to overtake your thoughts? How might you use Paul’s example of forgetting what lies behind to implement a calculated and purposeful neglect of this distraction?

What specifically about today’s passage gives you courage to focus on Jesus and let everything else fade into the background?

We’d love to hear from you! Share your thoughts in the comments.

© 2020 by Karen Ehman. All rights reserved.

Proverbs 31 Ministries believes the Bible is clear about the sins of racism and injustice. To read our full response, click here.


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