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When I have what can seem like an ordinary day, it can be easy to allow my mind to drift. I have discovered that when it does that I can either look back over my shoulder at something from the past or I scan the horizon for something in the future. I am guessing most of you know what I mean. It can happen without thinking or a goal of reflecting.
When I look over my shoulder, it can tempt me to look at ‘what was’. Depending on my disposition that means I will either review some very special days that warm my heart or very difficult days that hurt my heart in some way. The source of the temptation on such a day will likely determine which scrapbook of memories I review in my mind and that choice will affect what sets the tone for the rest of that day. I might be spurred to drop a note, make a phone call, or set up a coffee date, but I might fall prey to disappointment, bitterness, and anger.
When I scan the horizon for something in the future, I may scroll through my calendar to look at things that are plotted there. That might include when I am next going to see my children or grandchildren, meet a friend for coffee, or return to a favorite vacation spot. If I look at the empty spaces on the calendar, I might be tempted to yield to thoughts of whether or not anyone cares about me or even realizes I exist. Before long I can be swirling down a long dark tunnel if I yield.
I am confident that this tendency to look back over our shoulder or to scan the horizon and look ahead is common to us all to one degree or another. I see it in Facebook posts, on Twitter feeds, in magazine articles, in conversations with friends, and on the news. We either love the ‘good old days’ or we try to forget, degrade, or minimize them and the impact they had on us. On the other side we might also spend much of our time focused on looking forward to the next thing, the next season, the next promotion, the next raise, the next…
I think there is no doubt that either choice (looking backward or looking ahead) has some value. When I look backward I can both appreciate where I have been and what I have done and also learn from those things to make my life now even better. When I look ahead I can know the joy of anticipating something I am planning toward, but I can also be tempted to see aging, future losses, and more.
As with most things in our lives, I think it is impossible to eliminate these behaviors even though we can (with God’s help) allow them to be used more positively than negatively. The issue is more about how much time I give to either of the choices in my view.
If I spend a great deal of time relishing or lamenting the past or yearning for or fearing the future, I miss today.
I love how the Amplified Bible reads in Hebrews 3:13:
“But continually encourage one another every day, as long as it is called “today” (and there is an opportunity), so that none of you will be hardened (into settled rebellion) by the deceitfulness of sin (its clevereness, delusive glamour, and sophistication).”
I see often in scripture in both Old and New Testament passages the word “today” is used as a linchpin. My choice of the word linchpin is very deliberate because of its definition: “a pin passed through the end of an axle to keep a wheel in position”. Is it a word God uses often to try to help keep us in position, to remember that what we have is today and to steward it well? I think it very well may be.
As I was reading in Cindy Liggett’s new novel, The Sisters of Sugarcreek, I read these words:
“Regrets over yesterday and fear of tomorrow are twin thieves that rob us of today.”
Let us be wise not to miss these thieves hiding in plain sight.