I have been oddly sentimental–or, rather, nostalgic, I suppose.
That’s not normally like me. I am far from sappy; I don’t long for the days when the kids were little, I don’t keep “mementos”.
But it is interesting–my crew and I are finally to a place in this journey that we can look back on fun and wonderful memories and call them exactly that–fun and wonderful. They don’t have near the ache or sting that they took on in the wake of very hard things six years ago. That sting has lessened. And, as a result, we’ve been more open to talk about them when we’ve been sitting together, or driving together.
And, it’s been a very good thing. Oh, it still aches, a bit. We still grief that which we miss, but this place is so much better than the sharpness these memories took on, when life fell apart.
Now, we can laugh about the time we terrified the baby of the family, high up on a volcano, when we were exploring at night and told her that the airport beacon at the top was really an alien ship.
Or, we can ooo and ahh over remembering how our sweet dog, Biscuit, would tear out the front door, around to the back of the house and down the hill to fetch his toy, that their dad repeatedly threw out the back window.
We can recall family trips to Molokai, or Colorado Springs, or the Big Island, with tales of so many fun, silly things that happened.
It is, very good.
But it has also caused me to think about the concept of sentimentality and nostalgia.
Why do we, as humans, fall prey to such “feelings”, if they can be called such?
Nostalgia is a wistful longing or affection for the past. We look back on “good times” and wish we could “return to those days”.
And, truly, there is nothing wrong with that. Not really. Our lives are made up of milliseconds–little moments in time that become etched in our memories. In fact, God created us to “remember”–and we are even commanded to do so, as seen when God commands the Israelites to set up “stones of remembrance” such as we see in Joshua 4.
But, my friends, my fellow Christ-followers–
–let us not be a people who’s concept of a relationship with God, falls into the realm of sentimentality and nostalgia.
It’s easy to do, really. We “remember the days of old” when we hear a certain hymn, or we bring to mind a certain set of church events, or we recall a particularly meaningful youth camp, or mission trip.
And that’s not wrong to do, per se, but here’s the thing that is so funny about our emotions, including our sentimentality and feelings of nostalgia–
—they often cannot be trusted.
Here is what I mean by that–when we base our thoughts and theology on sentimentality and nostalgia, we will often miss the goal–the entire purpose–of being a Christ-follower, and instead replace it with sappy recollections.
We risk the danger of basing who we are in Christ today, in some distant, dusty, Vacation Bible School memory of Kool-aid and cookies and Flannelgraph stories, as opposed to recognizing the very realness of who God is, as not only the God of the past, but of the present and the future.
And, we risk the danger of not fully recognizing that the God of all the universe, the Holy and Righteous one, that may have been thundered about from the pulpits of our childhood, is a God who pursues us today as adults in a huge word with huge responsibilities and huge worries and huge fears and huge chaos.
This past weekend, I attended the birthday party of a co-worker, and there I met who grew up Southern Baptist. We talked about it a bit, but our conversation drifted more to the “back-in-the-day” and comical realm, than to the present reality of who God is, today, in either of our lives.
And that has bothered me.
Because, that shouldn’t be.
I wished I had asked him his thoughts on God now. I wish I had probed a bit deeper into what was behind his laughter at “memories”, twinged with a bit of–bitterness? Sarcasm? I’m not exactly sure, but I fully recognized it, because I am also very familiar with it, in my own life.
Because, truth be told, if I were to look back and rest who I am, in Christ, on wistful longings of what I remember “back in the day”–nostalgia or sentimental-soaked visions of so-called “Christianity” from “days gone by”, I guarantee you, my faith would be like dust.
Because I do not wistfully long, for those days.
And, I am so glad, that I do not.
I am glad that I do not, because what I long for is not some distorted longing for days past. Nor do I want to run away from God, in the face of hard things in the past, that could be associated with church, or “religion”, or Christianity.
I especially do not want to run, in response to such things.
No, instead, what I long for is a relationship with a living God, who is active and present in my life in the here and now. Today. Tomorrow. Next week. Next year.
Yes, He is God of the past. But if He were only the God of the past, there would be no hope.
And, we need that hope far more–far more–than any wistful longing for the past; and we also need that hope to eschew and fight any fleeing from what we may have experienced in the past, at the altar of “religion”.
We need a “now” God.
We need a God, who was willing to show Himself, to Thomas, in the very “now” moments found in John 20.
We have a “Now” God.
And we, like Thomas, can stand before this God of the now, and proclaim “My Lord and my God!”, every single morning.
Every single morning. Every single morning.