Every once in a while I see a photo or a movie, or hear a song, and be reminded of something from the past. Long ago Christmases or vacations, things like that. I have a sentimental streak but I don’t look back often. Some of my friends remember the exact score of football games from five years ago. I couldn’t tell you who was in the last Super Bowl, much less who won. That’s how God made me, I suppose. Either that or I suffer from memory-retention deficiencies courtesy of my drinking days.
Some people do talk fondly of the past. I like to imagine they have good reason to. They might be reminiscing but it sounds like a longing for what Bruce Springsteen calls “Glory Days”. That’s cool, I guess. Unless it affects their view of the present or future. Here’s a different perspective on reflecting on the past:
“When one door closes another door opens; but we so often look so long and so regretfully upon the closed door, that we do not see the ones which open for us.” Helen Keller
Generally speaking, being consumed with plans for the future isn’t such a hot idea either. Plans are good but how often do they turn out like we envision? None of my DIY projects turn out like I imagined. Nor do most of my days, for that matter.
Thinking about the future also has a tendency to instill fear in us. We don’t know what’s coming, and the unknown often causes us anxiety. This is a slippery slope for me. If I am thinking about the future too much, some anxiety-generating mechanism goes into overdrive. Before long, I’ve got worries by the dozens. I like this perspective about the future:
“The best thing about the future is that it only comes one day at a time.” Abraham Lincoln
Good ol’ Abe. There’s a man who would knew a thing or two about thinking too far out about the future. A day at a time is more manageable for me too.
Jesus was not silent on this phenomenon of looking back and looking forward. Even knowing His earthly destiny He was not swayed by future events.
“Therefore do not be anxious about tomorrow, for tomorrow will be anxious for itself. Sufficient for the day is its own trouble.” Matthew 6:34
“And Jesus said to him, “Leave the dead to bury their own dead. But as for you, go and proclaim the kingdom of God.” Luke 9:60
“Give us this day our daily bread” Matthew 6:11
There is wisdom in neither focusing on the past nor being consumed with the future. We have a bunch of sayings in recovery that touch on our inability to remodel the past or to know the future:
“One day at a time.”
“Live and let live.”
“Today is a gift. That’s why it’s called the present.”
Today is a gift? Interesting concept. Someone said each day is a gift from God. We receive the gift when we awake, and at the end of the day we give it back to God. This idea causes me to review how I am spending my days. I don’t want to hand back a day of binge-watching TV.
From the movie Roxanne:
Steve Martin: “Do you know what carpe diem is?”
Rick Rossovich: “Some kind of fish? Fish bait?”
Steve Martin: “No! It means ‘seize the day’.”
The book of Ecclesiastes reminds us there is a season for everything. There is a time for reflection, and a time for dreaming. The perspective we gain from 20/20 hindsight is educational, and sometimes humorous. We can learn from it. Daydreaming about the future gives us ideas we might not otherwise convert into action. I just don’t want those to get in the way of the adventure God gave me today. When today is over, it’s just another day in the past. And I have more “past days” than “future days”.
Now if you’ll excuse me, I need to go feed my carpe diem.