Longing for the Past

I make my own calendars for work. One of the reasons I do so is I’m able to choose the images that are on them and I choose images that have meaning to me and help remind me of locations where I’ve felt at peace. I had slipped behind and ended up needing to do both August and September. So I popped onto the web and found an image of one of the streets of Tsuwano, Japan and another of the Atomic Dome in Hiroshima, Japan. These are now up on my cubical wall beside a picture of the water at Barnwell State Park in Blackville, SC. But one of the things I noted as I scanned for images was a tinge of homesickness I felt towards Japan.

I’ve not been back to Japan in a long time. We were stationed there from 1984-1986 when I was 10-12 years old. So even though the duration wasn’t terribly long, it was during the years when I grew and developed a lot. My mother is from Japan and I have a lot of family there scattered from Yunaguni (near Taiwan) to up near Tokyo in Shizouka. That added to my assimilation into Japanese culture, to where my Oriental outlook on life and my love for Japan. It’s easy to think about moving back to Japan. I know it’s something I’ve considered over the years. However, it would be a great strain on my wife and my children. It’s a very different culture. And the truth of the matter is that the image I hold in Japan is an idealized one seen through the eyes of a 12 year-old boy in a 1980s world. Things are far, far different than back then and what 12 year-old boy really sees even half of what is going on around him?

When morning dawned, the angels urged Lot, saying, “Up, take your wife and your two daughters who are here, or you will be swept away in the punishment of the city.” But he hesitated. So the men seized his hand and the hand of his wife and the hands of his two daughters, for the compassion of the LORD was upon him; and they brought him out, and put him outside the city. When they had brought them outside, one said, “Escape for your life! Do not look behind you, and do not stay anywhere in the valley; escape to the mountains, or you will be swept away.” – Genesis 19:15-17, NASB

Lot didn’t want to leave Sodom. Despite the evil and wickedness he found there, despite the very real danger his family had just faced, Lot wanted to stay put. However, the angels sent by God were trying to evacuate him. They knew God was about to deliver punishment to Sodom and Gomorrah. And if Lot stayed he would be killed. In the end they were able to convince him to get out. So Lot and his family departed in haste, with no real direction than “out of the city.” But as they depart, one of the group looks back, longing for the home she has left behind.

But his wife, from behind him, looked back, and she became a pillar of salt. – Genesis 19:26, NASB

Lot’s wife looked back. She probably thought back to the good memories, to the friends they had left behind, and forgot about all the evil that they certainly had to have experienced in Sodom. Our past is a mixture of good and bad times. However, we tend to remember the good times or to remember the bad times in a good light. It can become a tempting trap to linger in the past and wish we were back in those days. But the reality is that what we’re lingering on is an idealized view of the time we went through and are already comfortable with. And it’s so easy to begin taking those steps until we’re stuck in the past and want to recreate the world around us to be like it was “back in the day.” But when we do so it’ll cost us. Now we probably won’t become a pillar of salt, but it will hurt us in the long run.

God doesn’t want us looking back and lingering. It’s okay to look back to motivate ourselves to move forward or to learn a lesson now that we didn’t learn then or to recall a wrong we committed in our past that we need to try to make rught. But loitering in limbo for days gone by doesn’t do us any good. God has a plan for us to move forward. He has a new home for us to embrace, one with Him, and He has things for us to do until we get there. Longing for the past traps us. It doesn’t solve anything that we’re facing. And it doesn’t allow us to grow. God wants us to lock our eyes onto the present, for that’s where the current work is. That’s where we learn to trust Him and love Him and adore Him. The past, not so much. Where are you focused? Are you locked in on the past and wishing it could go back to the way it was (or rather, the way you remember it to have been)? Or are you looking at the wonderful things God wants to do in your life and show you today? Focus on today, because that’s where the blessing is.

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