I am one who has always enjoyed delving into the past and digging up facts and memories of events of long ago. This journey has brought me face to face with people and events from my memories, and enriched the life I live in the present. I have discovered the need to keep a balance between chasing the past and living the present. Here are 8 things to remember as you take your own journey.
EIGHT THINGS TO REMEMBER WHEN CHASING THE PAST
REMEMBER THE PAST IS HISTORY
My mother often quoted the words of Francis Gray, “Today well lived makes every yesterday a dream of happiness and every tomorrow a vision of hope. Look well therefore to this day.” We tend to like history because there are no loose ends. Everything has already been settled, the outcome is known. There will be no surprises or nail-biting moments of uncertainty. What’s done is done. This makes it comfortable as we look in upon the lives or events of the past. We can learn and discover, and wonder why, or how – but in the end, the history is already written.
GUARD YOUR EMOTIONS WHEN YOU DISCOVER PAIN
As I research the life of a person of past memory, I have often encountered the events that have shaped the person they became. Sometimes my research has uncovered a crippling emotional heartache that altered the course of their life forever. Becoming aware of that pain and its intensity has a tendency to be passed on to my own heart, first as empathy, and then as a transferred wound that if not careful, can become crippling to my own emotions. Empathize, and understand – then remember, it is history, already done and finished.
LET YOUR DISCOVERIES LEAD TO ACTION
When I have a random thought or memory from long ago, I tend to grab a scrap of paper and jot it down. This joggles my memory later to research the details and search for almost forgotten facts. Because of these searches I have been able to find my kindergarten and first grade teachers from sixty years ago, just to tell them thanks for investing in my life. When I was five-years-old, there was a veterinarian who was kind to me and fostered the compassionate nature of my heart. I was able to tell him in his 90th year, “thanks”. The searching brought me to a meeting with a missionary whom I had known as a child. She never knew how greatly my life’s- work as a pastors wife and teacher were influenced by her own life – until I was able to find her 60 years later, and tell her. I discovered a friend from high school who had blessed my life, and now continues to bless my life in a renewed friendship. Chasing the past, living the present, can alter the future.
DON’T LIVE IN THE PAST
The good old days aren’t necessarily as good as you remember them to be. We tend to remember either the best, or the worst, but seldom the everyday struggles that make up the picture in its entirety. Life is difficult. There are mountains and valleys in the life-flow. There is abundance, and want. There are joys and sorrows. There are victories and defeats. My ninety-seven year old mother-in-law often says, “I used to ….” I remind her that even at my age I have a long list of things that “I used to…” If not careful we tend to grab hold of things that gave us status, or a feeling of importance, or a level of comfort that “we used to do”. Or even things that we could do in the past that we are unable to do in the present. Let those things go. They shaped you, were a part of who you are today, but they are the past. Remember them, and move on. If the memories point out something in your life that needs changing, this would be a great opportunity to make the change.
DON’T BE AFRAID OF TOMORROW
Chasing the past can sometimes lead me to a fear of the future. Remember, the past is already set. It’s the known. Someone you know has died of a terrible disease, or a friend has been taken in death. A relative has had a rocky marriage, a plane went down in the Pacific, or financial ruin crushed a family you have researched. Suddenly instead of looking to the future with confidence, you are caught in the past. It is in those moments that the words of Jeremiah the prophet can bring great calm and boldness. “For I know the plans I have for you, declares the LORD, plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.”
MAKE THINGS RIGHT
The past often has left-over hurts and battle scars. “Don’t let sun go down on wrath” is a wonderful model for everyday living in the present. Past hurts and resentments can be reconciled – even if the offending party is not willing to reconcile. Carrying around hurts of the past can only destroy you. In my line of work I have repeatedly had to learn this truth, sought to forgive and then move on. It’s a fact: People will disappoint you and hurt you. Make the hurts a part of history, learn from them, and then live in the present. Make things right even if only in your own heart. Do not live in bondage to resentment and bitterness.
SIMPLIFY YOUR LIFE
“Stuff” of the past can accumulate until we don’t have breathing room for new adventures or exploration, or experiences. Look at what you are housing in your environment and think of ways to live more simply. The old adage is so true, “the more stuff you own the more your stuff owns you.” Think of ways to declutter and simplify.
DREAM A NEW DREAM EVERYDAY
“This is the day the Lord has made. I will rejoice and be glad in it.” I have a dream of living each day to the fullest – soaking up every good and perfect thing that comes from living in the joy of the Lord. Sure, there are days that aren’t so joyful – and there are sad events. Chase the past, enjoy all that it teaches you, but live the present in the absolute, abundance of dreaming a new dream, and working hard to make it happen. The dream can be as simple as taking a walk around the block, sitting on a porch swing just being still in the moment, or experiencing the thrill of your first Bluebird sighting. The dream can be as elaborate as the expectant arrival of a new grandchild, the purchase of your first home, or the miracle of an answered prayer.
Remember, “Today well lived makes every yesterday a dream of happiness and every tomorrow a vision of hope. Look well therefore to this day.”
What are some ways you have discovered that help you chase the past while living in the present? Do you sometimes feel that you are “stuck”? Let me hear what tools you have used to better enjoy the present.