Thursday, October 19, 2017

The Good Ol' Days

“Don’t long for ‘the good old days.’ This is not wise.” 
Ecclesiastes 7:10 NLT

I’m not sure if Solomon could have been much clearer in this verse. While I believe that we understand Jesus’ teaching to not worry about tomorrow, we often forget about lingering in the past. If you are anything like me, the “good ol’ days” were never quite as good as I remember them. I can enhance them greatly in my mind and they seem even better depending upon the depth of struggle I am currently walking through.

Whether it is the divorce that I walked through, or a medical diagnosis, or just the craziness of our current world, so many factors of life compel us to look fondly on the past and to use the “good ol’ days” as an escape from our current reality. The problem with this is that we often miss out on the opportunities to sense the presence of God. He is with us in every moment and He sees every tear. His Spirit resides within us and is constantly whispering to our hearts.

How often do I miss time with God because my mind is longing for the good old days?

I believe that God is still active in my life. He knows and He cares and He loves me. While I can type this and share this and preach this, I wonder how well I actually live this? Do I actively pursue Him even when my emotions are crying out in pain? Do I seek His face and run to His arms, or do I withdraw and imagine how great life was?

There is an oft-quoted maxim that the “present” is spelled as it is because it is a gift from God. Yesterday is gone and will never return. Tomorrow never truly arrives. All we have is the gift of today. Recent tragic events from hurricanes to deadly shootings to the pain I see my kids experience as they are navigating teenage life and all of its hurdles remind me that I must make the most of today and trust God with the rest.

May I spend more time in the reality of today than the fantasy of yesterday!

Wisdom, according to Solomon, would be to recognize the reality of life and to live in the moment. While his fatalism throughout Ecclesiastes is often unhealthy, he was at least healthy enough to recognize the futility of figuring out the past.

So, if we are not to long for the good ol’ days, what should we long for?

Let’s start with God. We must long for the presence of God. We must guard our sacred space and spend time with Him. Maybe you are able to wake up early and enjoy a peaceful cup of coffee with your Bible and journal spread out neatly. Maybe your morning looks more like mine and we go flying out the door, dropping kids off at school, and enjoying quality time in gridlock traffic on the way to work. Regardless, let us not give up battling for time with God.

We should long for more time with our families. Meaningful conversation, laughter, and truly doing life together. It is too easy to become focused on the tasks of life and living with the mentality of survival. Jesus has called us into an abundant life, but I know that I need to be intentional about this, otherwise the cares of the world overwhelm and sweep me away.

We should long for the opportunity to fulfill our God-given purpose in life. This might happen at our jobs or in our communities, but our ultimate purposes are typically found in family. My kids are growing up quickly and I am short on years where they still want to hang out with me and be seen in public with me. I must cherish this time and be the best father that I am able to be. God commissioned me fifteen years ago with the responsibility to raise kids in the ways of the Lord, to set them up with tools and experiences to know the voice of God, and to steer them to a life as Christ-following adults. This is not a simple task. It takes the grace of God combined with my own intentionality.

So, what do you long for? Is it just a few moments of peace and quiet? Is it for the never-ending stream of doctor appointments to stop? Is it for a glimpse of God in the midst of your storm of suffering? Just remember that He loves you, that He is for you, and that wisdom is not found in the “good ol’ days” but is found in pursuing God as best you can right where you are.

Dear Lord, life is messy. It is often overwhelming and heartbreaking. All too often, we retreat to memories of the past, good or bad, and miss what You are doing in the present. Help us, Lord, to pursue You every day…to make space for You every day…to hear Your voice every day. Bless us today, strengthen us, and overwhelm us with Your grace. Amen!
~ Mike

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