I was talking to a friend recently who’s struggling in her marriage. She described some of the frustrations and obstacles, summarizing with words we have all spoken at some time: “I just wish we could go back to the way it used to be.”
Maybe it’s not your marriage, but how about
- your job
- or your kids
- or your health
- or where you live
- or other relationships?
Do you long for better days that are now behind you?
I remember a time when my spiritual walk was feeling dry. Kind of boring. Nothing really to talk about. In a moment of longing, I whispered to God, “I wish I could go back to the way it used to be…” I was thinking of when I was young and single, working in NYC and relying on God in this new and strange home. He provided and protected and connected me in ways that constantly overwhelmed my young, naive mind.
But as soon as my thoughts became words, the Holy Spirit said something I’ll never forget. “Oh no, Amy,” He said.
You don’t want to go back. It’s way better up ahead!” In those few words He pulled my gaze forward and unlocked the door to my future. You see: In wishing to go back to yesterday, I’d trapped myself from going on to tomorrow.
Think about the Israelites wanting to go back to Egypt. For most of us reading their story, this seems a ridiculous option. After all they had been through and the many ways God had protected and provided, why would they want to go back to slavery? But we have the advantage of seeing the whole picture. And we aren’t in the middle of a hot, dry desert.
To them, Egypt appeared to be better than what they now experienced.When the path is not what we expect, we can lose focus and momentum if we're not intentional. Click To Tweet
When the path is not what we expect, we can lose focus and momentum if we’re not intentional. Unexpected paths come in many forms:
While I don’t want to minimize the reality of these experiences, I’d like to share a perspective that must stay in the forefront of our minds if we don’t want to get bogged down.
1. Life always moves forward.
There’s no going back. Not really. Although some activities can be repeated or places re-visited, they will never be the same twice.
One of our favorite summer activities is to take our dory down the Snake River near our home. Every year brings change, large and small, depending on the run-off from snow melting in the mountains. The river takes on new water and stones and logs as it flows down familiar paths and cuts out new ones. Either way, it always goes in one direction: forward.
2. You’re not the same person you were yesterday.
Even if you could somehow replay “the way it used to be,” you aren’t the way you used to be. Change is subtle. Sometimes it comes in giant strokes, but usually it’s more like a gentle breeze: You only notice it if you’re real still. Anyone with kids knows this to be true. You don’t notice they’re growing until you’re away from them for a week or go to buy school clothes or don’t recognize their voice on the phone.
Think about your life. Everyday you learn new things and meet new people and discover something about yourself you didn’t know. I remember when I realized I do like lobster. Before that, I’d lived on the coast of Maine where fresh lobster was in abundance, but I always turned it down, saying, “I don’t like lobster.” It was just a little detail, a minor change, but change it still was.It was just a little detail, a minor change, but change it still was. Click To Tweet
3. Today is necessary to get to tomorrow.
Today may be hard. Really hard. Maybe you don’t even know where you are on the map or where you’re going. Maybe you don’t think tomorrow is worth today. But it is.Maybe you don't think tomorrow is worth today. But it is. Click To Tweet
When we built our second home, Matt was working full-time, I was home-schooling, and we were living with Matt’s mom (Matt, me, and our two sons in one bedroom.) We’d throw peanut butter and bread in a box and head to work on the house after school and work, day after day, night after night for seven months. Hammering and painting and kids sleeping on dirty plywood floors.
I remember when we got the trim up. I was so excited. “Now we can stain!” I exclaimed. “No.” Matt slowly replied. “Now we need to fill all the nail holes.” What? I didn’t even know that step existed! But there I was: dry, cracked, taped fingers; filling nail holes for hours. Did I want to stop? Absolutely. But to finish the house, I had to keep moving forward. I had to finish that step.
Today, as I sit in front of a warm fire or watch the sun move across the hills out the window, I know without a doubt every aching muscle and tear cried was worth it.
4. Looking back distorts your vision.
It’s interesting how you can ask several siblings about the same event and they’ll all have different stories. Different perspectives. Some remember the fun and laughter. Some remember the frustration or struggle. Some remember details no one else even noticed.
Now think about how you remember “the way it used to be.”
- How accurate is your picture?
- How honest?
- Are you taking into account every detail?
When you only remember certain, desirable points, it distorts your perspective of life’s journey. You forget the value in valleys and mountains. It also causes you to overlay those distorted memories onto tomorrow, choking out new and exciting possibilities.
I love God’s perspective of the future! It reveals His heart for growth and maturity and adventure.
To the Israelites after crossing the Red Sea:
“But forget all that—
it is nothing compared to what I am going to do.
For I am about to do something new.
See, I have already begun! Do you not see it?
I will make a pathway through the wilderness.
I will create rivers in the dry wasteland.”
Isaiah 43:18-19 NLT
And later, through the sons of Korah:
“What joy for those whose strength comes from the LORD,
who have set their minds on a pilgrimage to Jerusalem.
When they walk through the Valley of Weeping,
it will become a place of refreshing springs.
The autumn rains will clothe it with blessings.
They will continue to grow stronger,
and each of them will appear before God in Jerusalem.”
Psalm 84:5-7 NLT
Don’t let the hardship of today distort your memories or your future. Take it one step at a time, knowing each moment leads to a greater tomorrow if you allow it.
Something to Ponder
Jesus was able to endure the cross for the joy set before Him. The joy of reconciliation with His Father. The joy of reconciling creation to Himself. The joy of a family and bride to come.
- What joy is set before you?
- What promise has God made or vision has He given you for tomorrow?
- How is today preparing, changing, growing, freeing you?