What is it about the past that so entrances us—that defies all our discretion and hard-earned discernment? We yearn for times that have long passed: simpler times, when faith was easy, milk and honey flowed, and the grass (we’re positive) was greener than it will ever be again. We dote fondly upon the sweet mercies and light yokes of our yesterdays, wondering where the years have gone, and what it will take to get them back. Indeed, we have become a backward-looking people, eyes and hearts ever fixed on days gone by, using such sugary, touching terms as “reminisce,” “cherish” and “nostalgia” to justify an insidiously venomous rebellion in our heart of hearts.
We live in the days of "The Cult of Rockwell." Sentiment is our god, and memory, our altar; and we eagerly offer up our time, our treasure, and our attention to that which seeks to quietly overthrow Biblical duty and contentment. We despise our responsibilities of today, for they are more than we care to bear. We covet the blessings of our yesterdays, for we are certain they were better suited for our current condition than the meager portion allotted us this day. But we can’t say that outright, because it makes us look really, really, bad, and we don’t like looking really, really bad. So we put a syrupy gloss on the poison of our escapism, medicating ourselves into a smiling, wistful stupor while wreaking destruction from the inside out.
Oh, good Christian—why?
It’s not as though the Bible isn’t fraught with warnings against this most wily branch of the sentimentalist tree. Ask Lot’s wife. She, too, was fond of the life she once led. She just wanted one more glimpse, one more reminiscence, one more taste of all the fond memories she was being forced to leave behind. How did that turn out for her?
“Oh, you’re being extreme. The Bible doesn’t say we shouldn’t remember.”
Indeed, it does not. But what exactly does it tell us we’re supposed to remember? Can you imagine if God’s Word focused on the following imagined scenarios? That one time Jacob lost his first tooth and was so terrified they’d all fall out and leave him toothless that he refused to chew anything for two days? Or maybe the dance after the feast, where Moses went to offer a hand to Zipporah and tripped over a broken sandal, landing on a flatulent sheep? That time Andrew got a fishing net wrapped around Philip and accidently flung him into the Galilee, screaming like a banshee? Now these fabrications of mine are used to illustrate how we have lost our focus of what God wants us to remember.
Search the Scriptures with earnestness and honesty. Apologies to Mr. Rockwell, but you won’t find any covers for The Saturday Evening Post. When God tells us to remember, it is for two reasons only: (1) Remember your rebellion, that you might not rebel again, and (2) Remember His mercy to have brought you this far, in spite of your just deserts. Remember, but with a purpose. We don’t remember yesterday that we might forget today. We remember yesterday that we might do better today, and press on for tomorrow.
“But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining forward to what lies ahead, I press on toward the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus … Let those of us who are mature think this way.”
Good Christian, we are a people of purpose. We have work to do. How can our conscience permit us to pray “Thy kingdom come, Thy will be done” with folded hands and restless hearts? If our hand causes us to sin, we are to cut it off. If our eye causes us to sin, we are to cut it out. The same ought to apply to our memory. When our fondness for the past causes us to build up discontentment for our present duties and blessings we consider to be paltry, we sin in what we have done. When we while away our years in reminiscing, waxing nostalgic, and avoiding the “unpleasantness” of today, we sin in what we leave undone. God, in His omniscience, has appointed this day, as it stands. He is working out His will and purposes in this time, as He has in all times past, and as He will continue to do to the fulfillment of His plan. Ours is not to chase the past; ours is to press on toward the prize.
Put down the photo album, roll up your sleeves, and join in the work of this day.