I can’t help but look back.
Back to childhood and warm memories of holidays past, loved ones now gone, new love between my husband and me, our children as babies. The earliest days seem so long ago, yet I remember them easily. Maybe that’s why our grandparents repeated their oldest stories – they are the ones best preserved because they are remembered for the longest amount of time. Their grooves are the deepest in our brains, and the positives are highlighted. We dwell on those times; past moments stretch into luxuriously long periods that we can roll around in our minds as long as we let them.
As young people, we’re challenged to look ahead. “Where do you see yourself in ten years?” high school counselors demanded. “Five years?” asked college advisors. I was never great at forecasting – those questions left me cold, filled me with dread. I only saw clouds on the horizon.
The pressure of those questions conjured up visions of a slog through uncertainty. I imagined that if you couldn’t clearly see your future, it probably won’t be a very good one. It’s easier to look back, to see where we’ve come instead of where we’re going. Hindsight is dependable. The future is murky.
Little did I know then that the future would hum along; time moves on at warp speed. It goes too fast, and there are bumps in the road. They derail me. I’d like to say I take them in stride, navigate them with grace and dignity. But I don’t. Not always. Not even very often.
Stop the world, I want to get off. This quote sticks. It has become my mantra. It’s no more than a complaint, a whine that accompanies the roiling chaos. I want to retreat and come back when things slow down. I don’t want to deal. I’m tired of dealing.
The childishness and impossibility and sheer laziness of this reaction is humbling. My character is exposed, and it’s embarrassing. I am reminded of the younger version of me who felt the same way when asked about the future. Have I really not changed since then? Am I still grumbling about my own discomfort and uncertainty?
Have I learned nothing of God and what the future holds?
My desire for ease has obscured the truth. God has something to teach me about his ways. My way is comfort and ease – smooth sailing, wistfully remembering the best parts of the past and ignoring the future. But focusing on those times doesn’t teach anything. God gifted me those times and I cling to them instead of him. The resulting teaching, honing, pruning – it hurts.
Cling to me, he whispers. I am the way, the truth, and the life. I am the vine; you are the branches. Follow me; I know the way.
I have to focus. I have to look up and out. I have to follow God’s direction, found in his word and in my heart and in the patterns of his work in my life. It’s the only way to find the peace. I have to deal with it.
When I dwell on who’s in charge here, the future becomes clear, and so much better than the best moments of the past.
Now is your time of grief, but I will see you again and you will rejoice, and no one will take away your joy.
Do good to your servant according to your word, Lord. Teach me knowledge and good judgment, for I trust your commands. Before I was afflicted I went astray, but now I obey your word. You are good, and what you do is good; teach me your decrees. Psalm 119:65-68