Living in the past...
Ah, the good old days! Life was much simplier! Why can't we go back to yesteryear? A great number of TV and radio stations teleport us back to a time that seemed better than the present. Classic western films and music, sit-coms that were more family friendly-ish, and a host of other shows leave us wishing for an escape from morbid drama and over sexualized fare. Images we see and lyrics we hear today would have placed the writers and directors under federal scrutiny not so long ago. Now we absorb these destructive stimuli and don't blink an eye. Anger, hatred, and division swirl around us and we pine for better days...in the past! Really? I'm guilty as charged.
Often I think I would have loved to have been born in another era. Perhaps I would have made a great Pilgrim or a cowboy on the western frontier, or.....yes, you're right. I would have died from the flu epidemic.... In my scripture reading this morning, I came upon this verse and almost spit coffee out of my mouth.
"Instead, they pushed him aside and, in their thoughts and desires, returned to Egypt." (Acts 7:39b, CEB)
This snippet of text describes the nation of Israel and their fondness for being beaten and living under an oppressive government. As they journeyed through the wilderness they murmured and complained to Moses and distrusted God's provision. They longed for Egypt where food was plentiful and they had homes. They rejected Moses as their leader and God as their God. The text also reveals a hard truth about human nature. When going gets tough, we long for escape back to less complex living. We seek to step backward rather than forward. It probably speaks to the health of our faith and how much we trust God. Have you (in your thoughts) longed to live 100 or 200 years ago? It wasn't any worse then nor better.
We tend to seek comfort and goodness and often revolt (at least in our minds) when things don't go as planned. Even escaping into the past in our minds is dangerous because often we'll build entire lives around a long gone reality. The present never gets attended to and possible joys and victories are never realized. Sad. Much of my pastoral guidance over the years has addressed folks living in the past and being totally stuck in that place. It is good to visit the past and discover dysfunctions that need addressed but living in the past is a no-win situation.
Friends, let's bask in the goodness of God and live today with our eyes on the future. Life exists today and the future, but the past is made up of memories of days gone by that are not coming back...
Oh, just to bring balance to this conversation, the past had a whole raft of problems and suffering to deal with. As King Solomon said, "There is nothing new under the sun." (Ecclesiastes 1:9 b, NIV)
(Light at the end of the tunnel, The Furnace at Greenwood Furnace)