There is a fine balance between looking back at the past, dwelling in the present and having hope and anticipation for the future. Many of us, at one given moment, may be stuck in one of these spaces in time. All of us has a past. Anyone reading this obviously has a present. And, most reading have a future. But none of us knows the number of our days. Literally. None of us. God is the only One who knows the number of our days. For all of us, this should be not only relieving, but very refreshing. For many, though, fear and anxiety set in at the thought of the unknown.
When I worked at the college, as a staff we took many personality, behavioral and strength analyses to see how we all fit together as a team. One particular "test" revealed "Past" as one of my strengths. I remember not really loving this "test" because of the top 5 strengths I had difficulty embracing that they were actually strengths and not weaknesses. I thought, "Oh great! Now my colleagues are going to think that I'm a backward thinker, that I dwell, or am stuck, in the past, or that I'm so old-fashioned." However, the more we worked with this particular analysis, the more I realized that "Past" meant that I revere and honor and am thankful for the past as a means by which to learn for today...for tomorrow...for what is to come. In plain terms, just because I went to college and am almost 38 does not make me smarter than my 92 year old Grandpa. To sit and hear his stories and learn from those who have gone before us, that is what “past” means to me.
Past is a part of who we are, whether profoundly beautiful or particularly painful. Our pasts are not meant to define us, but rather mold us and shape us into the people we are today and those we will be tomorrow. The past is necessary for the present and future. The point being, though, that there is a present and can be a future. How that plays out, though, necessitates trust…trust that the Beautiful, Good, Awesome, Creative God of the Universe knows what the heck He is doing and that even if we don’t understand it, no matter our circumstances, He has promised us hope and a future.
"Past" is necessary for the present. It also shapes the future. Past is not a place in which we were designed to dwell. Living in the past is an oxymoron and only hurts those around us. It causes stagnation and certain death to those who choose it. It is the fine balance on the teeter totter of learning and living, reflecting and having hope. Living can only happen in the present and hope is a part of that equation. Hope can happen today, but it insinuates a future. There is no living in the past.
As a new year approaches many of us think of the change that will occur on that day in January. "Next year I am going to:" you fill in the blank. New beginnings, fresh starts, new opportunities. Some people boycott January 1st because they don't want a calendar or silly tradition of man to dictate their lives. No matter what time of year it is, our lives, all of them, could benefit from some good old change.
In order to move forward, we must look back and reflect. In the book of Isaiah in the Bible, chapter 43, verses 18 and 19 is says:
Do not dwell on the past.
See, I am doing a new thing!
Now it springs up; do you not perceive it?
I am making a way in the desert
and streams in the wasteland.”
Many people in Christendom like to read the Bible as if they were in a candy shop. They like to pick and choose which Scriptures they’ll read and skim over the ones that don’t sound pleasant. If you read these particular verses in context and go back to why this is even a statement of provision and promise, you undeniably find that God reminds His people from where they had come. Slavery. Bondage. Loss and Suffering. Wandering. Discipline. All of it was a component of their past.
As the New Year approaches, there are some things to keep in mind. One, life is circumstantial. Two, life is always changing. Three, the past is the past and is an ingredient in our present life recipe. Four, if we are surrounded by people, which unless we are hermits, we are…we still exist for a purpose! Five, “purpose” indicates hope and a future. Six, the past is important and not lost on us just because we presently live. Seven, moving forward today does not disrespect the past. It gives life to the past and honors it.
We must start living today!
Those are my random Tuesday morning thoughts.