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Looking Back

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

I've been thinking about what happens when you're steeped in regrets, always looking back at a "better" time. Thinking about "if only. . ." What happens when you try to live your life, not looking ahead to the future, but looking back instead. Walking in the present, but with your mind still in the past.

It reminded me of Genesis 19: "16 When he (Abraham's nephew Lot) hesitated, the men grasped his hand and the hands of his wife and of his two daughters and led them safely out of the city, for the LORD was merciful to them. 17 As soon as they had brought them out, one of them said, “Flee for your lives! Don’t look back, and don’t stop anywhere in the plain! Flee to the mountains or you will be swept away!” . . .

23 By the time Lot reached Zoar, the sun had risen over the land. 24 Then the LORD rained down burning sulfur on Sodom and Gomorrah—from the LORD out of the heavens. 25 Thus he overthrew those cities and the entire plain, destroying all those living in the cities—and also the vegetation in the land. 26 But Lot’s wife looked back, and she became a pillar of salt. "

Have you had something happen in your life that destroyed your hopes, your dreams? Perhaps you had a comfortable life, good health, nice family, adequate finances--and then disaster struck. Perhaps, like Lot, you lost everything. We read this story about Lot without really thinking about it. Lot's wealth and status are gone, his home, his way of life. And he can never go back. Even the trees and crops are gone. Nothing is left, no way back. They end up living in a cave in the mountains--a far cry from being a leading citizen in a prosperous land. And the bridges are burnt, they will never again live the life they led.

I often think of the South just after the Civil War. The homes are destroyed, crops gone, the livestock that supported them gone. No power, no food. A way of life is forever lost, never to return. There were people who went from having a room full of beautiful gowns--to taking in other's washing to survive. Instead of a rags to riches story--it's riches to rags.

Now, here's the thing. All of us are like Lot's family, like the Southern belle after the War. All of us have lost things. Perhaps a loved one has died, you have become disabled due to illness or accident, a cushy job lost with no hope of re-employment in that field, the effects of aging, something totally unfair happens. . .Perhaps that wonderful romantic courtship has become a distant co-habitation, maybe you wanted children and can't conceive, you have some deep seated need that just hasn't been fulfilled, and it hurts more than you can bear. . .

What do you do? Set out a challenging obstacle course in your backyard. How do you successfully navigate the obstacles? Can you rush blindly through? Can you make it through without a plan, without following a set path? I doubt it! Can you follow the path if you have your head turned so that you are looking behind you instead of ahead? No way!

Ever wonder why nothing is going right? Why others seem to have everything they want, and yet you have to fight for every single scrap or success? There is a rule of the universe you need to realize: Life is Not Fair! In some ways, that is good, if I got everything I deserved, I'd be in a real mess! In other ways, it is so hard to accept. Some times, you just plain don't get what you want. Life throws you a curve ball. (Or a bean ball and knocks you out!)


You see, the real question isn't about life not being fair, or what you had before, or how things would be better if only. . .The question is: WHAT ARE YOU GOING TO DO ABOUT IT?

You can live looking behind you, wishing for the past. Many of us do. Constantly comparing, and finding current life just not measuring up. It's a trap that stops all forward progress, just like Lot's wife.

CAN YOU BE BRAVE? Can you drop the past, and start fresh from here, from now, looking instead to the future? No, it won't be the same. But instead of constantly making comparisons, look at this as an adventure. The past is gone, you can't relive it. But today is here, and here, today, now, you can live. You can't change the past, but you can change your future.

I think of the story of Ruth, in Ruth 1: 1 In the days when the judges ruled, there was a famine in the land. So a man from Bethlehem in Judah, together with his wife and two sons, went to live for a while in the country of Moab. . . 3 Now Elimelek, Naomi’s husband, died, and she was left with her two sons. 4 They married Moabite women, one named Orpah and the other Ruth. After they had lived there about ten years, 5 both Mahlon and Kilion also died, and Naomi was left without her two sons and her husband. . . 11 But Naomi said, “Return home, my daughters (in-law). Why would you come with me? Am I going to have any more sons, who could become your husbands? 12 Return home, my daughters; I am too old to have another husband. . . 16 But Ruth replied, “Don’t urge me to leave you or to turn back from you. Where you go I will go, and where you stay I will stay. Your people will be my people and your God my God. "

Can you imagine? A famine, starvation, loss of home, of family, living in a foreign land, with foreign customs. Then loss of not only your husband, but your sons as well. No hope, no future, things will never be the same. Imagine the hopelessness, helplessness. Yet Ruth takes this as an adventure. Instead of moping in the past, she embraces the future.

Yes, it was hard. Ruth had to go out in the grain fields, and gather what few heads of grain were left in the field after the reapers went through, so she and Naomi could eat that day. Hard, hot, back breaking work. Yet she doesn't complain or compare. Instead, she is thankful for the blessing of something to eat. She does what she can with what she is given, while Naomi remains bitter, living in the past.

But read the rest of the story: Ruth goes on to marry a kinsman of her husband, and becomes the great grandmother of King David himself! She took the adventure!

There is an amazing verse in Luke 9:62
Jesus replied, “No one who puts a hand to the plow and looks back is fit for service in the kingdom of God.” An amazing statement. But think about it. A field needs to have each furrow equally distant and parallel to the previous one. You need straight, even, rows. What happens if you don't watch where you're going? Do you have a useful field, or a giant useless mess? Farmers know you pick a point in the distance, and keep your eye focused on it, to make the first straight row. Then, you keep your eye ahead on the first row, and keep your wheel always set in the same place in relation to that row, thus keeping all the other rows parallel to the first. You can't move forward, until you look forward.

Are you beating yourself up over something you ate this morning. . .yesterday. . .last month? Are you losing today because you're still stuck in yesterday? Are you looking back instead of forward?

READY? Let's start on a new adventure. Not looking back, let's look forward, forge a new future. Let's start where we are NOW. Use what we have. No, it may not look like what had in the past, but it is what we have. Let's use it and move on. It's not punishment, it's an adventure. Think of it that way. Make it that way.

Happiness is a choice, not a circumstance. If you are waiting for something to happen to make you happy. . ."If only I had a new car/nice house/mate/good job. . . .If only I had more energy/less pain/no cravings. . .If only I didn't have to take care of my relative/my husband would show me more affection/my sibling would help me instead of hurting me. . .If only that would happen, I would be happy."

I can tell you from experience it won't make you happy. Happy is a fleeting response. If that was all it took, you wouldn't see famous, rich, talented, beautiful celebrities committing suicide. Happy doesn't last.

What does last is contentment. When you can have things fall apart around you, and still not lose your peace. You know people like that. People that are your rocks. People that seem to be so happy, despite great difficulties. And you wonder how on earth they can do that.

Think about Philippians 4: " 11 I am not saying this because I am in need, for I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances. 12 I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want. "

Whoa! Now that's some secret! Instead of looking back at the past, instead of living in 'if only. . .', instead grabbing today's adventure by the horns and really living each day. Today is such a blessing, such a treasure. Don't waste it with regrets. Grab it, live it, make the most of it. When you're busy making the most of each opportunity, you'll find you're so busy making a new life, you won't spend as much time regretting the old life.

Take what you've got, where you are, and build on that. Make a new vision, live life to the fullest. It's a choice, and hard at first sometimes. It'll take time to retrain your mind to look for blessings and opportunities instead of focusing on the muck and mire in your life. But the more you look up, the more you'll find ways to help you get out of the muck that's dragging you deeper down.

Come on, let's look onward and upward! Let's grab the adventure! We can do this. Together, we can do it even easier!

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