Eyes Forward

This week Marion and I spent several days with her Aunt Doreen, who has concluded that the time has come to dispose of her home and its contents. Due to the effects of a mild stroke, Doreen can no longer live on her own, but she can still return to her home for a couple of days at a time with support, to go through various household items and personal mementoes in preparation for an eventual sale. Each of Marion’s siblings has invested considerable time and energy supporting Doreen as she goes through this process. This week it was our turn.

As my role in this undertaking was mostly that of an observer and occasional assistant, I had plenty of time to reflect on the process. Doreen came from a line of people who placed high value on the past, and saved anything that might someday be of value. True to her upbringing, she rarely threw anything out. She kept anything that reminded her of projects or people that had been important to her throughout her life. Now she is taking a long walk down memory lane, reliving days gone by and deciding what to give away to each of her nieces and nephews. The things that she is sorting through represent people and places long gone, and the process of letting go of these valued items is in reality a process of saying goodbye to the past and its memories.

But Doreen is not only a child of her upbringing. She is also a woman of faith. She remembers the past with gratitude but she knows she can’t live in it. She has to look ahead to whatever future God has left for her in this life, and beyond that to the hope of eternal life in Jesus’ Kingdom.

When the Israelites crossed the Jordan into the Promised Land after their forty years of wandering in the wilderness, the Lord instructed Joshua to have them take twelve stones with them from out of the Jordan, one for each tribe. The stones were to remind the Israelites of the great miracle that God had done for them when he stopped the waters of the Jordan from flowing so that the people could cross on dry ground.

Joshua didn’t build the memorial so that the Israelites could live in the past, remembering how wonderful it was when the Lord had delivered them, and wishing nostalgically that He would do something like that again. God wanted His people to remember the miracle, but he didn’t want them to spend their lives looking back. Joshua built the memorial so that they would remember how wonderfully God had delivered them in the past, realize that without him they would be completely and hopelessly lost, and put their complete confidence in Him for the present and for the future.

I will soon be fifty-nine years old. The longer I live, the more I have to remember. But I have learned that nostalgia is a trap. I don’t want to live my older years nostalgically reminiscing about past years and wishing I was young again. No matter how few or how many years remain to me in this life, I want to live the rest of my days looking forward to God’s future. I want to take my cue from the way the apostle Paul lived his life. Even though he was an apostle, he knew he still had growing to do, and he knew that God had not called him to be preoccupied with the past. His advice was to forget what lies behind and focus on what lies ahead, for the sake of God’s call. That sounds like good advice to me.


2 thoughts on “Eyes Forward”

  1. Thanks Peter this story really puts my “eyes forward”..especially the part where we should want to live the rest of our days looking forward to God’s future..it is a good focal point because I nostalgically like to reminisce about past years and wishing I was young again..you’re right it is a trap. Do not miss the JOY of the moment!

  2. The level of cooperation and Godliness in your family is praise worthy. Doreen must appreciate the help from all of you. I noticed a, cross cultural, similarity in the way elderly members of families dispose of their valuable and culturally significant possessions. I have observed this behaviour in several African communities including the Yoruba, my ancestral community, in Western Nigeria.

    Among the Yoruba the items are usually accompanied by a didactic session to let relatives learn the value of hard work and the importance of environmental stewardship. The significane of each item in the family and if possible the need to pass the items on, to future generations, is stressed. I guess this practice is a way of leaving our footprint in the journey of our families.

    On the main theme of Eyes Forward, there is an African proverb that says, “life is a journey and progress is achieved by focusing on what is ahead. Looking back is fine but those who keep looking back soon clip their toes and fall.” Nostalgia, to some extent is good. It helps us see a composite complete picture of where we are hitherto. Too much nostaigia is limiting and is potentially destructive.

    As believers our eyes must be focused on the prize so that in the end we can gladly say, “I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith. Now there is in store for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will award to me on that day-and not only to me, but also to all who have longed for his appearing.” 2 Timothy 4:7-8

Comments are closed.