I’ve said it before and I’m saying it now and I’m sure I’ll say it again…You can never go home. You can never go back. You can never regain what once was.
During my Jubilee Journey there were a few places I wanted to revisit…Yellowstone, Tetons, Cape Cod and my favorite camping spot on the Keweenaw Peninsula. The memories of the past pulled me back. I think I was hoping to feel the same senses, emotions, and memory of what I felt the first time. But no matter how much we want to regain or relive the past it is just that, the past. It is gone, only a memory and my disappointment only stole the joy of the present. Here are a few examples:
- My first visit to the Tetons was a spiritual awakening. I couldn’t wait to see those wonderful mountain peaks. When I got there I couldn’t even see the peaks from the smoke filled skies. I could have left but would have missed some of the most amazing sunsets I’d ever see.
- Early in my journey I found the perfect place to camp, a place of magnificent beauty right on Lake Superior. But in my hurry I didn’t stay but promised to come back and so I did. My second stay I wasn’t able to leave the van because of the violent lightning and torrential rains. But I did stay and saw an amazing sunrise.
- The hardest for me was going home…to “The Cape. My love of this place a hold over my heart until 15 years earlier when a family betrayal caused to never want to go back. A dear friend’s wedding pulled me east and so I reluctantly went. This was the hardest thing I’ve done and the disappointment broke my heart to tears. If I had left I my heart wouldn’t have known the joy of such healing.
My trip to Indiana last week reminded me of the problem of the past. Each time I visited family and friends during my Jubilee Journey I knew it was no longer my home but my relationship with the people remained the same. This time was different. Not only had more than two years passed but my life drastically changed, I had changed. I was so excited to see everyone but once I had time to reflect on my reunions I knew those relationships had changed too and I would no longer experience such friendship with them as before. I should have known. After I moved to Florida I learned that my group of “musketeers” had disbanded. Each went their own way even going to different churches and no longer enjoying each other’s company. My visit was the first time they had reunited since my departure and you could feel the difference.
There is an inherent problem with trying to visit the past – we fail to see the beauty of the moment. The present has many benefits that we’ll miss out on if we’re angry, disappointed or saddened that our present expectations don’t live up to the experiences of the past. We need to focus on the now, I need to focus on the now. God has so much for us today, now, and we’ll miss it if we focus on what was. God said “I am who I am”. Not I was who I was. He is a God of now and wants us here in with him in the now. When we take nostalgia too far and live in the past we miss what God wants to do now.
“Do not remember the things that have happened before. Do not think about the things of the past. See, I will do a new thing. It will begin happening now. Will you not know about it? I will even make a road in the wilderness, and rivers in the desert.” ~ ~ Isaiah 43:18-19 (NLV)
So what should we do with the past? God uses everything for our benefit and that includes the past. Let us not focus on what we can’t change but on what can change us. First, we learn from the past, our mistakes, failures, disappointments and heartbreaks we gain wisdom to make better decisions in the present. The Bible is full of stories of the past and we are expected to learn from it. As 2 Timothy 3:16 says, “All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness.”
Second, telling others of our past failures or beautiful moments can be an encouragement to others. The stories we tell can help others realize not all is lost in our failures and disappointments and give them hope. Stories of crazy antics, difficult relationships or God’s blessings can encourage others and lighten their load.
Third, the past gives us strength during trying circumstances. When David was preparing to meet Goliath he spent time recalling his past, those times that God was there when he killed the lion and the bear. Remembering what God has done before gives us hope that he will do it again.
Let us remember the words of Paul “I’ve got my eye on the goal, where God is beckoning us onward—to Jesus. I’m off and running, and I’m not turning back.” (Philippians 3:13, The Message)