Nostalgia is defined as “a wistful desire to return in thought or in fact to a former time in one’s life, to one’s home or homeland, or to one’s family and friends; a sentimental yearning for the happiness of a former place or time” (Source: Dictionary.com). We’ve all been there, especially when the hard times come. We long to go back to a time and a place when life made more sense.
Truth is, we usually look back at the past through rose-colored glasses. Sometimes, I suppose and depending on the particular memory, that is good (for example, when we remember loved ones who have died), but most of the time it just makes us unhappy about our current state of affairs if we are struggling under a hard trial right now. Three plus years of unemployment could certainly cause me to look at the past through those rose-colored glasses and long for a better place and time. However, the truth is, I wouldn’t go back and relive anything “back there.” Not even four years ago (August 2008) when I interviewed, was offered, and accepted that Director position in Houston that has lead to this very lengthy time of unemployment. We only have “now” in which to live and yesterday’s “nows” are long gone (the good, the bad, and the indifferent).
Thomas Wolfe (1900-1938) wrote a novel titled, “You Can’t Go Home Again,” that was published posthumously in 1940. In it, Wolfe “explores the changing American society of the 1920s/30s, including the stock market crash, the illusion of prosperity, and the unfair passing of time which prevents Webber (the main character) ever being able to return ‘home again’.
“The title comes from the denouement of the novel in which Webber (a fledgling author who wrote a book that included frequent references to his hometown–much to the remiss of those living there) realizes: ‘You can’t go back home to your family, back home to your childhood… back home to a young man’s dreams of glory and of fame… back home to places in the country, back home to the old forms and systems of things which once seemed everlasting but which are changing all the time – back home to the escapes of Time and Memory.’
“The phrase ‘you can’t go home again’ has entered American speech to mean that once you have left your country town or provincial backwater city for a sophisticated metropolis you can’t return to the narrow confines of your previous way of life and, more generally, attempts to relive youthful memories will always fail. It has been suggested that the phrase is sometimes spoken to mean that you can’t return to your place of origin without being deemed a failure” (quote source: Wikipedia.com).
This afternoon as I was going down memory lane (particularly thinking about my mother and my stepmother who have both passed on) and also reflecting on this lengthy time of unemployment which I wish would culminate very soon in securing a job or some other means of acquiring an income (I do love writing as you can probably tell), I ran across a devotion by Dr. Charles Swindoll titled, “Nostalgic Musings,” and I thought I would share it with you:
For over an hour the other day I strolled down Nostalgia Lane with a September 4, 1939, copy of Time magazine. What a journey! Pickups sold for $465 and best-selling books cost $2. Big news in the music world was Bing Crosby, whose records sold for 35 cents a platter. What was most intriguing, however, was the international scene, as presented by the staff writers. The threat of war was a slumbering giant, and Adolf Hitler’s name appeared on almost every page of the Foreign News section. President Franklin Roosevelt was busy calming the troubled waters of our nation’s fear of war, speaking openly of his “lovely hope for peace.” In spite of the Nazi war machine that had already consumed Italy, Sicily, Albania, and was primed to pounce on Poland, Hungary, Belgium, and France, the talk in America was amazingly casual–a smug, business-as-usual attitude.
How naive we were! Little did we know that within months the insane führer would unleash a hellish nightmare from which we could not escape. Before his screams were silenced, acres of soil would be covered with small white crosses, and thousands of American homes would have their tranquil plans for peace invaded by the brutal enemy of grief.
Every so often when we enter such a relatively calm era, it is easy to forget the prophet’s warning to beware of those who superficially heal the brokenness of a nation by announcing “peace, peace” when “there is no peace” (Jer. 6:14; 8:11). And if we feel sufficiently comfortable and relaxed, it’s mighty easy to block from our minds the Savior’s prediction of “wars and rumors of wars” and His warning that “many false prophets will arise and mislead many” (Matt. 6-7, 11).
Who knows? Fifty years from now another preacher could be leafing through a Time magazine yellow with age, feeling a nostalgic twinge and smiling at what we consider modern times. He will no doubt notice the business-as-usual look on our faces, only to be seized with the realization that we had no idea what a ragged edge we were living on in our relaxed American culture.
If indeed there is an America fifty years from now.
We need to be alert.
Sometimes the best of times
may be a breeding ground
for the worst of times.
This was written before the events of 9/11 and the two succeeding Wall Street crashes–the first one just days after 9/11 and the second one on September 29, 2008–and the times in which we live are certainly more precarious now. We are, indeed, living on that “ragged edge” Dr. Swindoll referenced. Yet, there is still that “business-as-usual” attitude on most American streets. We think that life will go on as usual tomorrow and the next day, and the next, and we continue to make our plans, ignoring the “ragged edge” that is all around us in this world of ours. The truth is, we do not know what tomorrow holds (Prov. 27:1). The Message Bible states that verse like this: “Don’t brashly announce what you’re going to do tomorrow; you don’t know the first thing about tomorrow.”
As Christians, James 4:13-17 gives us a specific warning about “boasting about tomorrow.” Read those verses with me: “Now listen, you who say, ‘Today or tomorrow we will go to this or that city, spend a year there, carry on business and make money.’ Why, you do not even know what will happen tomorrow. What is your life? You are a mist that appears for a little while and then vanishes. Instead, you ought to say, ‘If it is the Lord’s will, we will live and do this or that.’ As it is, you boast and brag. All such boasting is evil. Anyone, then, who knows the good he ought to do and doesn’t do it, sins.”
While musing nostalgically is not necessarily a bad thing (like me remembering pleasant memories of my mother and my stepmother this afternoon), boasting about tomorrow is a very bad thing. While we should never go back and try to live in the past or long for those days again regardless of how unpleasant our current circumstances may be, we should never boast about tomorrow either. And, we should not live our “today” in a daze unaware of what is going on around us in our country and in our world. We can make our plans, but it is the Lord who directs our steps (Prov. 16:9).
The Apostle Paul said it best in Philippians 3:13-14: “Brothers, I do not consider myself yet to have taken hold of it. But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus.” If we are going to boast at all about today or tomorrow, let it be like the Apostle Paul–that we are pressing on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called us heavenward in Christ Jesus…
So stay alert . . .
And that’s a goal . . .
We can boast about . . . .
YouTube Video: “Reelin’ In the Years” by Steely Dan (From the album/CD: “Can’t Buy A Thrill,” 1972):
Photo credit here