Isn’t it great to think about nostalgia for a moment? To ponder about what once was, to remember once upon a time when life was simpler and technology, the advent of it, and the ease of digital communication at the expense of face-to-face time wasn’t so much of a reality as it is now? Sometimes I do, I still do. I sometimes catch myself wondering what it would be like if the VHS never went out of fashion, or if the millennium bug did indeed hit way back in 1999 and it was in fact an apocalyptic age we’re living in now. Sometimes I even catch myself missing simple things- like how times were less complicated during primary and high school, and how now, in this moment, life can seem a lot more interesting, hard, difficult, enjoyable, daunting and rewarding, sometimes all at once.
Nevertheless, this week’s sentimental Saturdays is a reminder for every one of us (and myself too), that the fond memories of the past ought not to be a place for us to continuously dwell, but rather a memory for us to share with the people we love, and a way for us to realise that even if everything around us changes- our neighbourhood, our friends, even our hobbies and interests; God still remains true. I know this sounds as cliché as can be, but sometimes the cliché things can indeed be the things that ring the most true for a person. Even if our nostalgia serves no other purpose than to remind us of the one constant in our lives- Christ; it is still great to have the memories- good and bad, of our past, as we share the lives with the ones we love.
What are the things you’ve missed out on? The things if given the chance, you’d try out straight away, or if you have a do-over, you’d go back to completely undo? A list a mile long? No list at all? Regardless of whether we have no regrets or have tons, I’m sure we all are nostalgic in our own way. Just the other day I was talking to a colleague of mine at work about how quickly technology has rapidly advanced. We were comparing notes about whether we still had our VHS players, DVDs, even old gaming consoles like Nintendo 64 (I think mine is in the home garage, though I’m not entirely sure). To bond over these shared memories or experiences is a good thing, yet to dwell there and to wonder if life was ‘easier’ or ‘harder’ is something we all ought not to even think about. Yet I’m sure we do. I know I have sometimes had those thoughts. What if my brother and I went to different high schools? Would we be as close as we are now? Should I have really studied my university course, even though the line of work I’m in currently is almost entirely different to what I majored in? Should I have been more of a socialite at high school and university- especially if now I am thinking about the future, family wise and I don’t even have a girlfriend, let alone even a first girlfriend, yet? All these thoughts try to invade your mind, and you’re left to wonder- where I am right now, is it the place I want to be? And if not, what am I going to undertake or even think about to move from position A to B, if that is what I really want?
Decisions, especially life-altering decisions like driving, finding a girlfriend, settling down in the future, pondering about work, even thinking about work and where I want to head; have all been things that have been on my mind recently. And to say that I’ve been much more nostalgic than normal lately is perhaps an understatement. When life was simpler and I didn’t have to think about life-changing decisions. But if I wish that life was like it was back then, then where does that leave me? Where does that leave any of us? Christ came to give life to the full- which means enjoying life right now and in the future, as well as in the past. Nostalgia is great, but if pondering about years gone by is stopping us from making pivotal choices about future consequences and where we’d end up, then that is when we need to take a break from pondering and to take some time to pray. Prayer, as cliché as it sounds, can give us clarity, as we seek solace, comfort and joy in knowing that our past, future and now have all been covered by God’s grace- infinitely more than we can ever know and imagine.
There’s a verse in the bible that places things into perspective. I know I’ve probably quoted this one a thousand times in years gone by, yet it is just as poignant, prolific and personal now as it ever was- therefore, if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come, the old has gone, the new is here (2 Corinthians, 5:17). As I myself reflect upon this, I am reminded of this very fact- Christ makes all things new, and that even if things are changing very rapidly, more so than I’d care to admit, I still have the one thing that never changes to cling to in a time that is possibly more uncertain than ever before. I don’t know where I’d be in 1 year. Maybe my job will take me places I probably wouldn’t even know or dream about. Maybe I’d be married and be living out of home. Maybe I’ll be discovering something new or learning something different. Maybe I’d be travelling. But regardless of what I will be doing, there’s one thing that I’ll know is true- that Christ is with me.
I don’t have to wish for times to be different, or simpler, or to make my list of regrets and do-overs from the past to know that Christ has made us a new creation- and that if the things of the past are hindering us from living in the present and the future, then we’d need to reconcile them with Christ, receive healing, and maybe, possibly leave them where they are- the past. Josh Wilson, perhaps one of my favourite multi-instrumentalists/singer/songwriters ever, recently released a song called “That Was Then, This is Now”- in it he declares for us to ‘…go ahead, put the past in the past, box it up like an old photograph, you don’t have to go back, cause that was then and this is now…’ We don’t have to live in a pile of what-ifs and a sea of maybe this or that. Nostalgia is great, but if it doesn’t encourage us to act courageously in the present, knowing that Christ is with us in the situations we’re in, then our pondering is more harm than good.
Christ makes all things new, even the ugly and dirty things of our past. And no matter how many times the things around us change, and no matter how many things we wish we could change from our own personal past and the past of others around us, one thing is for sure- that Christ has been to our past, present and future. Even if all the pieces don’t fit right now, that doesn’t necessarily mean that Christ isn’t in control. As I reflect upon the life I have lived till now, I can be sure that it’s been an eventful one. Even when I was five, I wanted to write and cook, and now I’m pursuing both. Who knows what tomorrow or even a year from now will hold? What I will know is that ‘that was then and this is now’- what I worry or won’t worry about is not going to change the truth of who God is for me and what He will orchestrate and lead in my life from this day forward. That pondering is great but without a purpose of planned action behind it, it’s just another form of worry.
What have you been pondering about lately? Are there any do-overs that you’d like to revisit if given the chance? If you had an opportunity to live life differently up to this point, would you take it? What do you think God is speaking to you about at this moment? These are all legitimate questions, even some I may need to continuously think about in the upcoming days. But what I will know is this- that whatever work Christ has started in me up to this point will be completed and will see fruition. Whatever that may look like in the future is something unseen, but to trust and have patience is what I, and I’m sure a lot of other people, ought to hold onto right now. The past is a wonderful thing, and something to bond over when you’re talking to family and friends. The past is full of heritage and nostalgia. And the past is a place where we all can start in order for us to confront our issues as we move forward in the months and years ahead.
Whatever is in front of us in our lives right now is in our way for a reason. It may sound trivial for the person suffering from loss, disease, or the person who is unsure where their life may head, but I truly believe that we can learn something, anything, from the situations that lie before us. Just as Josh Wilson’s new song “That Was Then This is Now” encouraged and still encourages myself to place our past there if it is more harm than good, singer/songwriter Steven Curtis Chapman’s poignant and powerful power-ballad “Finish What He Started” gives us a reminder- that ‘…it may feel like 40 long days in a hard driving rain or 40 years in a dry desert sand, but when He’s finished we will see a beautiful tapestry, and know that nothing has been wasted in the end…’
Can we see how amazing that is? That whatever we’re encountering right now will always be used, and I mean always, to God’s glory and our good? Isn’t that freeing as we leave our baggage of worry with Christ Jesus to settle for us? As I finish this post, let me point out this question to you- are you pondering about anything that is keeping you from living life at the moment? Do you wish like you can go back to simpler times? Are you facing any life-altering changes and moments you’re in right now? How has songs like that from Josh Wilson or Steven Curtis Chapman (or any personal song of yours) been influential in your life thus far? Sound off in the comments, and remember- that Christ finishes what He starts, and that our past was then, and that living in the present and future is now. Music has the power to change lives, maybe, just maybe, there’s a song that is a soundtrack of our life right now. And maybe all you need to do is hear, and listen a little more, to realise that Christ is with us always, no matter what we believe to be true.
Till next time.