In my life story as circumstances have become difficult, I often go back to the past for comfort. Do you ever do this, daydream about your childhood or another time in your life. I find some comfort and perspective in looking back to my childhood and teen years. God assigned me adversity in that my Father, who was unable to cope with supporting a family, fell into alcoholism and ultimately abandoned my family 4 times over the course of ten years. Each time I worked after school; it was hard, emotional difficult for a teenager. But God always can see the future benefit and his grace is unending.
To truly honor our history is not just to mine it for the pleasant and easy stuff. It is to deep dive into its messy depths, deal with it, and learn from it; not just consume it as nostalgic mind candy.
As Christians know, one of the fundamental principles of bible reading is the importance of context. Our selfish age of individualism leads us to a “here’s what the passage means to me” understanding. The reality is the Bible’s meaning more to do with the Ancient Near East than it does with understanding how it makes us feel. The moral relativism and expressive individualism that has become part of our blood it seems repeatedly drags us into sinful behaviors and thinking. Daily bible reading and prayer, communion with our Lord is the only way out of this mental prison.
The danger of nostalgia is that we confuse a healthy memories and appreciation for the past with a desire to repeat it. We become confused learning from the past (in its complicated context) with a desire to re-live it today. This be debilitating for us and stifle healthy discontentment in our souls. The past is unlivable, and we cannot recreate it. Our perceptions of those times were clouded by sin, fatigue, and mental distress.
Our nostalgic impulse is not a bad thing, it’s a symptom of a larger existential dread: we are eternal beings in a physical fallen world. The “passing away” of now: here then gone and cannot be replicated again. This seemingly uncontrollable fact causes us great pain because we are destined for a future world where things won’t die, decay, and pass-away. They will be eternally new and so will we. We want this
As Christians, we are, after all, a people defined by an event—the resurrection—that upended the passing order of things and reoriented history around the hope of future grace and glory. In a weary world where transcendence is often looked for in “yesterday,” what we have to offer is firmly fixed on “tomorrow.” The future grace of God through Christ is leading us into an existence we have no frame of reference for. It will be no doubt startling, even in our intermediary state of disembodiment we will be free from all the physical and psychological things that so encumber us now.
Be comforted in your memories of the past but be joyful and excited as you look forward to God’s future grace, in eternity.