Thursday, March 28, 2013

Only the Dead Live in the Past

Truth be told, I never owned one of these original Macintosh computers. Back then, only the über-trendy and financially well-endowed had a computer of any kind.

Joining the ranks of computer-users later, after a brief and dubious flirtation with the Dark Side (Windows), I have been a dedicated Mac guy for 15+ years.

But this is not about computer preferences (ouch: nerdy pun...).

I did have one of these during a dark period of my life known as the early 1980's. Much sanctification was squandered over this brain puzzle from hell. My solution to Rubik's Cube was the vigorous application of a sledgehammer. (One of life's guilty pleasures.)

But this is not about silly brain teasers from the past.

It's about discerning the difference between the hamster-wheel trap of feel-good nostalgia, and weeding out the superfluous and getting back to what is truly important.

A friend of mine tweeted the following recently...
"Don't wanna relive the past as if it was the future and mistake nostalgia for anointing... here's to the journey." (David Ruis)
...which started me thinking.

On the one hand, it's true: living in the past is only for dead people. There are countless blogs and books that warn of the paralysis of living in the past. Getting stuck at a certain painful moment and never moving on. Retreating from a full engagement of the present (and thereby truncating the future) because "it was better back then".

But on the other hand, when people (small groups, churches, organizations, etc.) find themselves stuck in some fashion, one of the best ways to get unstuck is to revisit their roots/foundations, their original vision/goals, and figure out what got them off-track. And then deal with it, and get back on-track.

So, how do you figure out which it is? Is it a time to put the past firmly behind you, or instead, to do the hard work of rooting out whatever caused things to get off-track?

Even in Scripture, you can find examples where it seems that forgetting the past and moving on seems like the most spiritual thing to do: "But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus." (Philippians 3:13-14)

And of course, that perennially-quoted-in-charismatic-circles gem: "Forget the former things; do not dwell on the past. See, I am doing a new thing! Now it springs up; do you not perceive it?" (Isaiah 43:18-19)

And there are also Scripture verses which clearly instruct/encourage us to get back on track: "You have forsaken the love you had at first. Consider how far you have fallen! Repent and do the things you did at first." (Revelation 2:4-5)

And the high-water-mark story of King Josiah; the guy who -- upon hearing the Covenant read for the first time in his life -- went to incredible lengths to get his entire nation back on track. (2 Kings 22 & 23)

The wrestle is simply that there is no one-size-fits-all answer. Only the dead live in the past, but only the foolish ignore their roots. Discerning how to live in that tension is one of life's more difficult learning curves.

I guess that's why they call it a 'journey'. If we didn't have the Holy Spirit to guide us (John 16:13-15), we'd be toast.

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