“Nostalgia is a file that removes the rough edges from the good old days.” – Doug Larson
After dinner one evening, our family snuggled up on our comfy, well-worn couch as I screen-shared my phone with digital photo albums onto our television. We nostalgically gazed at photos and videos of precious coos, Christmas memories, and delightful family vacations and travels. Finally, we ended our trip down memory lane with one of those sentimental compilation videos my iPhone created, set to a sweet tune that brought a couple of us to tears (okay – maybe just me).
The fond memories of the past made us all very sentimental and miss the “good ol’ days” of the past. The cuddly, squishy blonde-haired baby. The sweet hugs between siblings. The serene sunset on a far-away white-sand beach.
How easy it is to miss the past when we have a highlight reel of the “good ol’ days” at our fingertips on social media or in photo albums. We often forget the loud tantrums. The epic meltdowns. The sleepless nights. The missing luggage. The delayed plane.
Those moments aren’t captured as much, so we can easily forget them. When I long for the sweet baby days that went by way too quickly, I never think back on the messy blowouts I cleaned at 2 a.m. or the lovely spit-up that covered my shirts. Or the boy's excellent aiming aptitude during speedy diaper changes. Or the way my body ached and moaned after giving birth. Or any other moment that was less than “ideal.”
As I considered all of this, it made me think of the Israelites when God commanded Moses to lead them out of Egypt and into the wilderness for 40 years. The Israelites often complained to Moses and Aaron and longed for “the good ol’ days” in Egypt. One moment, in particular, jumped out at me:
“In the desert the whole community told Moses and Aaron they weren’t happy with them. The Israelites said to them, “We wish the Lord had put us to death in Egypt. There we sat around pots of meat. We ate all the food we wanted. But you have brought us out into this desert. You must want this entire community to die of hunger.” (Exodus 16:2-3 NIrV)
How quickly the Israelites forgot what life was really like in Egypt as enslaved people. All they focused on at that moment was the abundant meat they used to have in Egypt as their bellies ached for food. When reading about the exodus, I can easily scoff and think they all acted like spoiled toddlers when God had just saved them from slavery. He parted the Red Sea! They moaned, complained to Moses and Aaron, and focused on their highlight reel.
I am no different.
How easily I can reminisce on the past and see how wonderful life was when I look at my highlight reel (or I sit in comparison as I look at other people’s highlight reels). Life was beautiful in the past, but it is even more beautiful now, yet I tend to get so bogged down in life’s current demands, that I miss the beauty of the here and now.
“Long ago the Lord opened
a way for his people to go through the Red Sea.
He made a path through the mighty waters.
He caused Egypt to send out its chariots and horses.
He sent its entire army to its death.
Its soldiers lay down there.
They never got up again.
They were destroyed.
They were blown out like a dimly burning flame.
But the Lord says,
“Forget the things that happened in the past.
Do not keep on thinking about them.
I am about to do something new.
It is beginning to happen even now.
Don’t you see it coming?
I am going to make a way for you to go through the desert.
I will make streams of water in the dry and empty land.
Even wild dogs and owls honor me.
That is because I provide water in the desert
for my people to drink.
I cause streams to flow in the dry and empty land
for my chosen ones.
I do it for the people I made for myself.
I want them to sing praise to me.”
– Isaiah 43:16-21 (NIrV)
So, when we have moments of missing what was, let us be reminded of Who is in control of our past, our present, and our future. We can get bogged down in the to-do’s, the frustrations of what happens around us, and what we see in society, but God holds it all in His glorious hands. He is Sovereign over all and loves us dearly. He wants our whole heart and total devotion. The past is important – but we cannot stay there. We must look at what is around us now and who is around us. We wait in joyful anticipation for the coming of the Lord, but while we wait, we wait contentedly. Satisfied. Hopeful. Gracious. Forgiving. Loving one another in the here and now. One day, we will reflect and think, “I sure miss those good ol’ days back in 2023!” But we ARE living in the good ol’ days! Let us be thankful because this is the day the Lord has made; let us rejoice and be glad in it.
“Let us remember the past with gratitude, live the present with enthusiasm, and look forward to the future with confidence.” – Pope John Paul II