This week I’m spending time with fabulous people I’ve known for a long time, some more than a dozen years. We’ve got a lot of history together, some good, some bad, some funny, some embarrassing. When we first meet up, we catch up on what’s new in everyone’s lives, what their families are up to, all the pertinent details. Once we’ve worked through all that, we start reminiscing about the past, sharing stories, maybe a little trash talking, and hilarity ensues. We remember those times fondly, with a sort of wistfulness, because things are so different today then they were then.
We often look back on the past with affection, things were simpler then, better, not the way they are today. Yet it’s only the passing of time that gives us that perspective – in reality, those good old days really weren’t that good, at least not in the way it seems at this moment.
A wise counselor once told me – as I was lamenting that I just wanted things to go back the way they used to be – that she doesn’t help people go back, she only helps them move forward. At the time, those words really irritated me, how could she not understand that I was happy back then and I wanted that feeling back?! Again, it’s only the perspective of time that has made me realize that the life I wanted back was not without issues or problems, it’s simply that they were familiar and I had built coping mechanisms for them that were comfortable. I didn’t have that same luxury with the current problems and issues I was facing.
It’s these realizations that illustrate so clearly to me how nothing has changed since Biblical times. God rescued the Israelites from slavery in Egypt – they were free! But were they thankful for their freedom?
Numbers 11:4 – 6. . . the Israelites started wailing and said, “If only we had meat to eat! 5 We remember the fish we ate in Egypt at no cost—also the cucumbers, melons, leeks, onions and garlic. 6 But now we have lost our appetite; we never see anything but this manna!”
In addition to their freedom, all of their physical needs are met. They have silver and gold that was given to them by their Egyptian neighbors. But they are wailing because things just aren’t the way they used to be. They’d forgotten their harsh treatment as slaves, how the king had ordered the murder of all of their sons – they only remembered the free food from the all-you-can-eat buffet.
So it is with me. I tend to want to go back to what was before because it’s much more comfortable than the hard thing I’m going through or the uncertainty of what might happen in the future. I want what’s familiar because I’m under the delusion that in this familiarity I might have some semblance of control.
It’s been great to be able to relive the history of my relationship with these fine people, but what I’ve enjoyed even more are the new memories that we’ve made together this week. We can’t go back to what we had before, but we can forge ahead and create a new thing.
Do you find yourself wishing you could go back to a certain point in time and stay there? Maybe it’s time to walk away from the past and venture into the unknown that just might be the promised land.