Friday, December 4, 2009

Caution: Memories May Be Dangerous

I’ll admit that I struggle while watching the scene in National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation when Clark Griswold is trapped in the attic and ends up watching old home movies from Christmases past. As the tears roll down his cheeks I can’t help but be carried back to memories from my own childhood where traditions were established and memories were made. Reminiscing is good, but it can also be dangerous.

Listen to what Ecclesiastes 7:10 says, “Say not, ‘Why were the former days better than these?’ For it is not from wisdom that you ask this.” The passage is found in the context of someone who is struggling. The writer is cautioning them in this verse to keep from looking to the past for escape, and in the next verse he cautions them to avoid to looking to the future for their inheritance which would be another form of escape. It is quite remiscient of what Jesus says in Matthew 6:34, “Do not be anxious about tomorrow, for tomorrow will be anxious about itself. Sufficient for the day is its own trouble.” However, our point here is thinking about looking back, not ahead.

Why is it dangerous to look to the past or to the “good ole days” for our rescue? I can think of a few reasons.

Our Rose-Colored Glasses
First, the past is usually not as rosy as we remember it. Sure we have memories of hard things that have happened in life, but when we look back upon our good memories they tend to get better with age. We forget about the stress or inconvenience that was really going on at that time. As we think we think about those holiday gatherings or momentous occasions we tend to forget that there was great tension in some part of it. Often our memories of the past are not quite accurate because they have been swayed by our sincere desires to make them better.

God Is At Work Today
Second, looking back may cause us to lack appreciation for what God is doing in our lives today. By nature we are contrastors. I like this brand of peanut butter better than another. I like this song better than another. You get the idea. If we don’t guard ourselves in this type of thinking we’ll convince ourselves that God was better to us then or life was just better back then. Again, that is probably not the case. Remember, there was sin and struggle back then as well. Perhaps we have chosen to forget about that element of the memory. God is faithful. The Bible says that He does not change. He desires to actively work in the lives of His people today. Don’t miss how He wants to work in you and through you today because you can’t get your eyes off of the past.

Please hear me here, I am not calling you to forget the past. But, I am calling you to make the most of the moment God has given you to glorify Him and love others.

So, this is a blog and not book and I am only going to give you two of my reasons. What are some reasons you can think of that make the truth of Ecclesiastes 7:10 true and relevant for you?


Maria said...

I think that looking back is OK as long as we remember that it is the past and cannot be changed. But, if remembering helps one to look at things differently or gives a person confidence in knowing they've been there or done that before and can do it again, then I believe we should look back.

If God did not want us to remember the past then why would He give us such a brain to hold all those memories and countless ways to record memories to be used as reference points in the future? I do agree that one should not be bogged down in the past so as to be blinded to the present, but we learn and grow from looking back to our past or the past of others.

We just have to keep the past in perspective as we live in the reality of the present and wait for the future.

Anonymous said...

looking back is sometimes a reflection of discontent. Timothy says [in the context of our finances] that Godliness with contentment is great gain. I believe that in all of life contentment is great gain including staying focused on the present leading and blessing's of God.