Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Looking Back for Good

I recently heard an excellent sermon in which the pastor affirmed good memories, but not foolish nostalgia. He affirmed looking ahead, but not in vain expectations. He said it this way [paraphrased]:
"We, like the Israelites, are commanded by God to remember the past - and how we were delivered by His hand and cared for by His providence. But we are not to go back, to the lands of Egypt, to the places where we were enslaved, mistreated and paint them as better than they were.
"We are commanded to look ahead, to the Promised Land, the places of provision and kindness and safety He promises us. But we are not to jump ahead, trying to skip the steps of obedience that train us and humble us. We are not ready - yet.
"We are to look back - but not go back. We are to look ahead - but not jump ahead.
"God is sovereign and powerful. You are right where you need to be."

This has been a very hard year in many ways and very victorious in others. I have been accepted by people I have fought with and rejected by people I cherished.

Like so many of my middle-aged group, I've gotten on Facebook to remember "simpler, better times" of my childhood along with others from my hometown in North Mississippi.

One of the FB leaders asked what do we [individually] miss most about those formative years of our growing suburb, besides the people themselves.

I thought for a second and then realized it was not a thing but the entire environment: something you could never recover.

I wrote the following.

I imagine every community goes through three stages of growth - just like a person does.
Those early years of Southaven were OUR early years and I agree completely that the years between 1969-1985 were great. Weird, but as much I try to detach, I still see several elements that made it a good small town with enough amenities and community to shelter and nurture without becoming too commercial or insulated.
I think the generation that was raising us was glad Viet Nam was over and certainly remembered WW2 and Korea. Their values shaped ours. We had 4 channels of TV not 40 and plenty of areas to explore.
What would I have back? $1.50 Tuesday night movies at the Southaven 6? Southland Mall? The Garden Shop at Hwy 51 where all the moms bought plants for their husbands to put in the yard? Riding by that place with the sprinklers throwing water all over me after a hot bike ride back from the Southland Mall on a Saturday evening with the sun the color of melted orange sherbert? With my parents utterly satisfied that I was wise enough to not get run over nor in need of a cell phone?
Do I miss the neighborhood dogs we kids knew by name or is it the isolated man with mental difficulties who'd stand in his yard with a 'wife-beater' t-shirt and slacks every day at 3:30 to watch us come home by bus?
Do I miss running inside to catch Star Trek at 3:30 or the Halloween where everyone but the old lady in the pink house gave us candy?
I'll tell you what I miss:
I miss the adventure of those years. They were not 'exciting' - our parents had a strong hand in making sure they were not, in many cases.
But they were adventurous. We explored. We made friends. We made enemies. We romped and stomped and poked dead things with a stick. We imagined that the glow from Memphis in the north was The Promised Land because Graceland was there.
We imagined that the sun set down in the True West of Myth because the road stopped and the gravel began and the treeline made a perfect horizon for a June sunset.
We imagined that one day we'd fly out of Memphis International Airport and become famous, like Elvis did, or one day eat at the rotating restaurant at the top of UP Building.
We imagined we were Luke Skywalker and that our bikes were our X-Wings. We played with Legos, paper footballs and old gunstocks.
We imagined we were in a great adventure and we'd go amazing places.
I think I miss that.

We should never fear having nostalgia or wistful memories of our childhood.

But we should fear treating them as an impossible magic trick that cannot be replicated. It is in our power to focus on the good not the terrible and to learn without regret.

For we are still children of a Great Father, if we have truly asked to become His.

There is more wonder coming.

And more adventures.


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