Nostalgia—it’s the aspect of the human heart longing for the way things used to be. How pleasant to reminisce over the course of an afternoon with a cup of coffee, while you are staring out the window by the fire overlooking the late February snow! But there is a thin line between giving in to those feelings and memories over the ways things used to be, and present time. One moment that nostalgia is a pleasant exercise; the next it becomes something destructive.
If we’ve been serious about our prayer lives over the course of many years, we can reminisce over those too. We may remember times and places in which we have felt close to our Lord and Savior; we can compare and contrast those memories with times in places in which we have felt less close to Him. We can catch ourselves up in remembering those who had been spiritual friends, who may no longer be with us. And the experience generally leaves us longing for “the good old days,” which were not, usually, quite as good as we remember them, nor so really long ago as we would like to imagine.
Possibly—indeed probably—as we take that journey through the past, we might notice that at the time we did not appreciate them through the lens that we do now, as we look retrospectively.
Pleasant though it may be, looking backwards in our spiritual lives can be harmful to us because it can kill the life of the Spirit within us as we forget that God is in this present moment. He was not merely God “back then”—He is also God and Lord of our lives, even now. There’s an immediacy in the Psalm which we know as the Venite (“Ven-EYE-tee,” Psalm 95): Today if you hear his voice, harden not your hearts.
It was certainly great if we heard His voice “back then.” But having heard it back then, would we not seek for and desire that voice to speak to us here and now–this very day?
Here’s the hard truth. If our spiritual lives are based only on nostalgia, then as the nostalgia fades so will our love of Jesus Christ– just like the rose blossom, picked at the moment of freshness, so soon fades. For our spiritual lives to be vibrant and a driving and living part of our lives, we need to focus on what God is saying and how we hear him this day, this moment, this very now.
2/28/2010 (Lent 2)