This time of year is acutely nostalgic for me. July meant Kanakuk, summer sports wrapping up, avoiding yard work, days in the pool, and trips to my granddad's cabin. So every year around this time, I begin to listen to music (see Dashboard Confessional and Michael W. Smith and Jimmy Buffet [don't ask me why we listened to tropical music at a cabin in the mountains]) that I had forgotten about. I begin to lag on yard work around the house. I start looking at Priceline deals. I long to go somewhere else with a taste of life that's refreshing.
Remembering life back then can be both painful and healthy. God often calls his people to remember what he has done and remember from where they have come. Remembering is a godly thing to do. As disciples of Jesus, there are at least a few ways nostalgia can derail our lives rather than energize it.
When we look back at our lives, whether it was this morning or last decade, we can give in to this feeling of shame. This sense that we screwed up or made a fool of ourselves. I'm not talking about healthy repentance; this is self-destructive condemnation. It's the feeling of embarrassment over who we were or what we did or what we thought that makes us say to ourselves, "you're so stupid." This is not a godly way to remember our past.
Looking back, we can see that there were a lot of hard times. Trauma and pain are unique to every individual and we all experience it. Remembering our lives can lead us to believe that God was not good to us. That he wasn't around. That he abandoned us. That kind of thinking leads to present actions grounded a false narrative. We will begin to think that we need to defend ourselves, protect ourselves, or attack others. We begin to believe that God doesn't care.
Many of my friend's parents, right before we all went to college, said that the next few years would be the best of your life. I remember feeling so sad about that idea. These were a bunch of adults living with the regret that their lives were, at that time, not as good or memorable compared to what it used to be. This sense of regret or loss over what we had back then adds nothing to life now but insecurity and frustration. For many of us, we have good memories of 'back then' but the goal isn't to get back then, the goal is to let the goodness of the days gone by energize us to live today to the fullest before the face of God.
Nostalgia can erode life today, but it can also kick-start life. That's coming up next...