I went for a walk with mom a few days ago and we talked about our two childhoods, hers in Alabama and mine in Texas.
We talked about the things we remembered growing up – food, family, friends – and both said we wouldn’t mind coming back, if only for a day, to those old days. .
The world – and life – seemed simpler then. Not so much stress, not so much worry, not so much care. It seems like most people I meet are pretty stressed out in one way or another. Work, school and life in general in an interconnected world seem to be busier than in previous generations.
When things are stressful, it seems easier to look back and dream of the “good old days”. And, having turned 34 last Sunday, I’m at an age where I can look back into what seems like the distant past and can’t wait to come back somehow.
I look back and feel nostalgic for those days of sleepovers, biking and exploring with my sisters and friends in the forest near our house. I love to recall the past, look up names and events that have been lost in memory, talk with my family and old friends from my childhood. It’s nice to remember. And sometimes I wish I could come back because sometimes, looking at the world as it is, I can look back with wistful eyes to a time that I would like to return to.
Longing is a wonderful, powerful and dangerous thing.
In Ecclesiastes 7:10, the preacher states: “Do not say, ‘Why were the old days better than these?’ Because it is not by wisdom that you ask this.
I love how that simple statement, “for it is not in wisdom that you ask this”, got so thrilled.
Wisdom, according to the scriptures, begins with the fear of the Lord (Proverbs 9:10). So, with the knowledge of Scripture, it could read as follows: for it is not out of fear of the Lord that you ask this.
What can the preacher warn against when he says that it is not wise to look back at the “good old days” in a way that makes you want to go back instead of being in the dark. here ?
I think the reason is at least twofold.
First, when I think back to those days and compare them to today, it often comes from when I am currently stressed. So when I compare then to now, I tend to be a lot more critical of my current situation and look at the past with rose-tinted glasses. At this point, I am not looking at the real past, but a version that I designed for myself. Nostalgia can be good. But it can also cause us to look back with a non-critical lens.
And the second reason, and I think deeper, embedded in such a question is that I question God’s plan and purpose.
The apostle Paul, when he apologized to the Epicureans and Stoics in Athens, said that God “made every nation of mankind with one man to live on all the face of the earth, having determined the periods allocated and the limits of their place of residence. “
If God has placed me in this particular time and in this particular place, then what do I say when I ask, “Why were the previous days better than these?” If my mind is in the past, dwelling on the quality of the good old days, wishing I could come back, then I’m not present with the friends and family where God has placed me.
Before continuing, I must come back to the meaning of the fear of the Lord. The fear of the Lord is not simply to be afraid. Fearing the Lord is more of that awestruck feeling one gets when standing outside on a clear starry night and gazing out at the expanse, contemplating the vastness of the universe, or standing on the edge of the sea. Grand Canyon, dwelling on the depth of such a place on earth.
The places we usually go to begin to compare what it means to fear the Lord. But what about the time? If staring at the stars or gazing at the canyon below makes such comparisons to the reverential awe of the Lord, then surely the weather should do the same.
Right before Jesse and I got married, I wrote a column about the number of little decisions that led to her and I even met in the first place. And how many others have led us to get married. It’s hard not to remain in awe of all the decisions, both local, national and international circumstances, which led to Jesse becoming my wife.
I think that’s what the preacher is going with. God not only created space, he also created time. He is the Alpha and the Omega, the beginning and the end. Yes, we can look back at the time we spent with our friends and relatives and thank God for them. But we dare not dwell on it. The events of yesterday happened for a reason. And what is happening today is also happening for a reason.
In one of my favorite parts of JRR Tolkien, The Fellowship of the Ring, Frodo, in a moment of sadness, said, “I wish the Ring had never come to me. I wish none of this had happened. Gandalf replied gently, “So do all who live to see such times, but that is not for them to decide.” We just have to decide what to do with the time allotted to us.
This section of fiction presents a beautiful truth. Time itself is a precious gift given by God to his creatures to enjoy. We must not lose any by hoping to return to days already passed.
Joseph Hamrick is a semi-professional writer and sometimes a thinker. He lives in Commerce and is a deacon at Commerce Community Church (C3). He can be contacted at [email protected]