Friday, March 06, 2015

The Danger of Glorifying the Past (PrayerLife)

Baptist Student Center at Michigan State University, around 1982 (?)
Over the years I have met many people, some of them in churches, who point to the past as some kind of glory days that need to be recreated. For such people the further one gets from those "good old days," the better they look. But truthfully, the "good old days" had their problems too.

Thomas Merton quotes 19th-century Dutch historian Johan Huizinga as saying: “There is not a more dangerous tendency in history than that of representing the past as if it were a rational whole and dictated by clearly defined interest,” (In Merton, A Year with Thomas Merton, Kindle Locations 2389-2390)

In the glorification of the past the past gets distorted. The person who glorifies the past lives an illusory life rooted in falsehood.

As for me, I find myself rarely (if ever) wanting to go back to the past. It's true that I have good memories. I sometimes think of Linda and I, living in East Lansing, with our two little boys. We did not have a lot of money (that was hard). We did have one another (that was good). Sometimes I think of those days, but I never want to go back and do them again. My desire is not to recapitulate the past.

My heart aligns strongly with the apostle Paul's view, which is: one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, 14 I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus. (Philippians 3:13-14)

Moving forward and finishing well - that's what I am praying for. Pressing forward, not backward.

With this viewpoint I am freed from the tyranny of an often-distorted past and released to love God and move with His Spirit now, today. The Word does not say "Yesterday was the day that the Lord had made," but...

"This, today, is the day the Lord has made. Let us rejoice and be glad in it!"